by Annette Jenkins
With more than one million visitors in 2011, it can be difficult to get visitors to the Ozark National Scenic Riverways to all to comply. Understaffed, the rangers of the national park aren’t able to man 875,000 acres.
Visitors bring horses and ride the trails, creating a set of problems including destroyed vegetation, erosion of the trails along waterways, and horse waste.
“What do you expect? We have 361 miles of unauthorized trails throughout the park and people do what they want. That includes ‘social treks’ which is going where they want to when they want to,” Faye Walmsley, chief of interpretation at the National Park Service, said.
In the summer months, young adults float every weekend, and they bring beer. They contribute to the litter issue park management must deal with in working to keep the park clean. Park Ranger Pat Jackson describes snorkeling on his days off, and witnessing litter firsthand.
“I’ll dive under in some areas of deeper water and there are literally just thousands, and I do mean thousands of cans. It’s incredible.”
Walmsley said she faces difficulties in passing critical information to the public about safety and rules, but she and her team on working to protect the park for the nature, the visitors and future generations.
Edited by Caroline Murray