(KDKZ-TV) Work is proceeding at Ozark National Scenic Riverways to repair facilities that were damaged during the 2017 flood. While some heavily damaged locations will remain partially or totally closed, or operate with reduced amenities, much progress has been made and additional areas will be open in 2018. The National Park Service (NPS) is continuing to make repairs toward recovery at those areas, which requires coordination of a number of factors and prioritization of available staff.
Concurrent with the short term recovery efforts, the NPS has undertaken an Integrated Park Improvement planning process to help evaluate flood impacts parkwide and develop a strategy for the long-term restoration of facilities and services in a manner that is more sustainable in a flood-prone river corridor. That process is expected to conclude early this summer, and will help the park compete for future funds for flood recovery and re-development projects.
Restoring services and sustainable visitor facilities throughout the park will be the top priority for park staff in 2018, and could result in shifting workload away from other tasks or programs to accomplish those goals. In addition, park staff will plan to focus debris removal efforts this spring in the Two Rivers area and along the lower Current River near Big Spring.
“Our challenge this year is to restore as many damaged areas for public use as we can. That means we’ll have to temporarily discontinue some things that we’ve normally done so we can instead focus on making repairs. We apologize to the public for any inconvenience and we appreciate their continuing patience as we work through the difficult tasks ahead,” said Superintendent Larry Johnson. “Our hope is that even though the appearances of some of the repaired facilities may not be up to visitor standards, (or ours, for that matter) they will at least be open and available for public use. The damage has been of such magnitude that we cannot restore the areas to the way they were before the flood in time for the visitor season, so we’ll instead focus on getting the basic repairs needed to re-open. ”
An update on current work progress and anticipated 2018 facilities and operations is listed below.
Lower Current River area:
- Big Spring Lodge and Cabins: Planning is beginning for the installation of new water and sewer lines, repair and restoration of the Lodge and Cabins, and landscaping of the damaged grounds. At this time, it is expected the actual renovation of the Lodge and Cabins and installation of the utilities will begin in 2020.
- Big Spring Campground: Crews began repairing the Big Spring Campground in December 2017. Due to the extreme damage to the Big Spring area during the 2017 flood, the entire campground was closed to the public for the remainder of the year so that park staff could focus on repairing and opening less-damaged areas and facilities. Five restrooms in the Big Spring campground that were damaged beyond repair will be demolished and removed. Several other buildings are undergoing extensive repairs, including the hot shower house, the restroom in the 300 Loop, and the cold shower house restroom in the group campsite area. Repairs include re-roofing the buildings and replacing electrical components, interior walls and fixtures. The electrical components at the trailer sites in the 200 Loop are being repaired or replaced as needed so that there will be electrical service available for recreational vehicles. Dozens of truckloads of sand, silt and flood debris continue to be removed from throughout the area. Part of the Big Spring Campground is expected to reopen by Memorial Day weekend, with an option for reservations to become available at that time. Temporary restrooms may be used to serve the 100 and 200 Loops in absence of a restroom building in that part of the campground.
- Replacement of the Big Spring bridge will begin after March of 2018 and is expected to take approximately one year for completion. While the bridge is closed during construction, visitors will still be able to reach Big Spring, the boat ramp, and campground via Peavine Road.
- Big Spring and Peavine pavilions: Both pavilions were destroyed in the flood and are not expected to be replaced in 2018. The concrete slabs remain intact at both pavilions, and picnic tables have been placed on them for gatherings and picnics. At the Big Spring pavilion, restrooms are available nearby, with water and a grill available at the pavilion. At the Peavine pavilion, a grill and water will be available, but there is no restroom at the site. Both pavilion sites are available for reservations for $15 per day at www.recreation.gov. Pop-up tents will be allowed as long as they remain on the concrete slab.
- Pin Oak campground was completely destroyed during the flood and is not expected to reopen. However, as part of the long term recovery effort, the NPS is exploring other options for developing campsites in that area of the park in the future.
- Due to the perennial flood damage to the popular Waymeyer access, and in accordance with the park’s 2015 General Management Plan, the Environmental Assessment process has begun to find a more sustainable location for the access and to identify a way to separate concessioner access to avoid conflict with private floaters. As the process evolves, there will be opportunities for public comment in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Middle Current River:
- Powder Mill Campground and river access: This area sustained extensive damage. The river landing re-opened in August 2017, but the campground and nearby restroom will remain closed in 2018 due to the lack of electrical service to the area and the extensive work needed to modify the road. Major work is needed to restore the badly damaged Powder Mill Campground and to re-route the road to the river access. That process is underway but may take a considerable amount of time to complete.
- Two Rivers Campground: Two Rivers Canoe Rental will operate in a temporary mobile office building that was installed near the former site of the Two Rivers Store that was washed away in the flood.
Jacks Fork River:
- Alley Spring Campground: Currently the Alley Spring campground is closed due to issues with the water line on the damaged pedestrian bridge over the Jacks Fork River. The campground is expected to reopen once the potential for the water line to freeze is eliminated, no later than April 15. Repairs to four restroom buildings (located in the 300 Loop, 600 Loop, 800 Loop and Group Campsite 2) in Alley Spring Campground began in January. Repairs include cleaning building exteriors and replacing electrical components and interior walls and fixtures. It is expected that these buildings will open as repairs are completed and utilities are restored, with all four being available by Memorial Day weekend. The remaining damaged restrooms are slated for repairs and are expected to open them sometime this summer. Temporary restroom facilities may be provided, if necessary, to supplement the rehabilitated facilities and the shower house/restroom facility that was installed in 2017.
- Alley Spring and Mill area: Because of the damage to the utility lines on the pedestrian bridge, the restrooms near the Alley Pavilion and Burr Oak Pavilion are expected to remain closed in 2018. Portable toilets will be made available through the summer.
- Replacement of the vehicle bridge over the Alley Spring Branch will begin in 2018.
- Shawnee Creek Campground: This backcountry camping area is currently open, but the restroom at the site is closed due to flood damage. In 2018, we plan to replace the restroom at Shawnee Creek Campground with a new durable concrete vault toilet, designed for use in flood prone areas.