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Senators Introduce Bill to Keep Table Rock Park fees in the Park

Tours of Table Rock Dam are currently closed while the legislation is pending./Credit: Ozarks Heritage Foundation Facebook

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/senators-introduce-bill-keep-table-rock-park-fees-park_79130.mp3

Missouri’s two US senators are working with their counterparts in Arkansas to introduce a bill that will reestablish a joint management agreement between the Corps of Engineers and Ozarks River Heritage Foundation. This agreement had originally allowed the foundation to collect user fees and apply them to park maintenance and operations. KSMU’s Anna Thomas has more.

The Corps of Engineers leased management of eight campgrounds and public areas surrounding Table Rock Lake to Ozarks River Heritage foundation in May 2011. At that time, the foundation was able to use the fees collected from things like picnic areas and camping for park maintenance, improvements and other operations.

This past September, however, the Corps terminated the agreement after a legal review of its policy. Laurie Driver is the public affairs spokesperson for the US Army Corps of Engineers for the Little Rock District.

“They were making improvements that we could not make. Then we were told we were working outside of our authority and that money could not be used in that manner, it had to be returned to the U.S Treasury, and we terminated that lease with the foundation,” Driver said.

This change could have negative effects on Ozarks Heritage Foundation, which currently has a notice on its website claiming there will be no tours of Table Rock Dam or the Powerhouse due to the decision.

The group of lawmakers, which includes Republican Roy Blunt and Democrat Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, are currently working on a bill that will reinstate the previous agreement, allowing the funds to go back into the park. According to the non-profit Congressional Budget Office, the legislation is likely to prevent closure of many facilities that collect nearly $2.2 million each year in recreational fees.

In a statement, Senator Blunt said “the bill will help alleviate the continued uncertainty and ensure that Table Rock Lake stays opened for the families and businesses that live, work, and vacation there.”

As of now, the Corps of Engineers will run their own eight areas for the upcoming recreational season.

“The Foundation did a wonderful job for us, it was a great partnership. It’s just we couldn’t continue as the lease was written,” Driver said.

The legislation is still pending as the senators and corps officials discuss their options.

For KSMU News, I’m Anna Thomas.