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Ozark Mtn. State Park - To Be or Not To Be....

leah kirk

David Casaletto

Ozark Mountain State Park was purchased, along with two other parks, towards the end of Governor Nixon's term in office. The Missouri Legislature, along with others, questioned the need for additional state parks and if the park budget allows for not only the development but the upkeep of these new parks.

Ozark Mountain State Park covers 1,011 acres and shares a border with the Henning Conservation Area. The East Fork Roark Creek and Roark Creek traverses the property, seven miles upstream of Lake Taneycomo. The Ozark Mountain property features a distinctive southwest Missouri landscape of bald knobs, natural glades and woodlands traversed by 2.2 miles of Roark Creek, including much of the three-mile long East Fork Roark Creek. The property's vegetation reflects southwest Missouri's distinctive grasslands and glades natural heritage. More than 430 acres of dolomite glades cover the knobs, ridgetops and hillsides across the property. Together with the associated dolomite woodlands, the White River region's two most distinctive native ecosystems cover more than two- thirds of the property's 1,011 acres.

               The woodlands and glades alongside Roark Creek and East Fork Roark Creek contribute to the water quality and aquatic habitat by providing shade, surface and groundwater inputs, and watershed protection in the rapidly urbanizing areas of Branson and surrounding Taney County landscape. They are also key natural resources from a wildlife, bird and native plant conservation perspective. Particularly important are the species that are unique to glades and are adapted specifically to the glade environments. 

               Roark Creek is the property's major aquatic feature, a Class C stream that feeds Lake Taneycomo through a 40-square mile watershed. Roark Creek's East Fork is an Ozark Creek natural community traversing 1.5 miles through the property to its confluence with the West Fork. Both are tree-lined wet-weather streams over bedrock and cobbles. Roark Creek below the forks is larger, also tree lined but flows through the hay fields of the former Ozark Mountain Ranch before exiting the property another mile downstream at the Lower Henning Trailhead.

               I think you realize that I would like to see the Ozark Mountain State Park developed at least for day use such as hiking with a dirt trail system throughout the park. These trails could easily connect with the existing trail system in Henning Conservation Area and become a major natural attraction for the thousands of Branson visitors that are looking for an outdoor experience. The Missouri club developed a fact sheet on the state park that contains some interesting information. They too, would like to see this park developed and protected. 

               The State Park System is wanting your comments on this, and the other two, new state parks before they decide their fate. You can visit the park website and submit your comments online. But you have to hurry - the deadline for comments is January 5th.