JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday endorsed the same plan the federal government is backing for managing the spring-fed Current and Jacks Fork rivers, as long as the National Park Service is flexible about implementing its proposal.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the Democratic governor said the park system's preferred option for managing the Ozark National Scenic Riverways is the "most reasonable approach."
"(The plan) provides the best course for continued and future enjoyment of this treasure," Nixon wrote.
He also asked the department to be flexible in enforcing restrictions on the outdoor activities performed at the park, as long as they do not pose a threat to the rivers.
The National Park Service is in the process of updating its management plan at the park for the first time in three decades. It has put forward three options with varying degrees of restrictions to continue managing the area as well as a "no action" option that would leave the current plan in place.
Its preferred proposal, endorsed by Nixon, would close 65 miles of undesignated horse trails and unauthorized stream crossings while also adding restrictions on the use of motorized boats and converting 150 miles of off-road trails used by all-terrain vehicles to hiking paths. Another 35 miles of approved horse trails would be created.
Nixon's endorsement puts him at odds with several state Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, who have criticized the park service's proposal, saying it limits public use and recreation.
The Republican-led state House is also considering a resolution that would ask the park service to maintain its current management plan.
Sponsoring Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Poplar Bluff, told colleagues in a hearing last week that the government's plans would be an encroachment on the people who use the river for enjoyment. His resolution was adopted Thursday by the House tourism committee and now heads to the Rules Committee.
A public comment period on the government's options for managing the park ended on Friday.