Missouri debuts new state park
Echo Bluff State Park is officially open.
Gov. Jay Nixon cut the ribbon Saturday on Missouri's newest park, which is being promoted as a hub from which visitors can explore the state's Ozark region.
"Echo Bluff State Park is a new jewel of Missouri's acclaimed state park system and offers everyone from experienced outdoorsmen to families who appreciate modern amenities a beautiful base from which to explore the eastern Ozarks," Nixon said. "Not only is the park adjacent to the beautiful Current River and Current River State Park and a gateway to the Ozarks, it's been an economic development tool, creating hundreds of construction jobs and now providing area residents with new employment opportunities in their community."
Bill Bryan, the director of Missouri's state park system, said, "From right here at Echo Bluff, you can visit Montauk State Park, and (you're) about a 45-minute drive from Johnson's Shut-Ins and Elephant Rocks and Sam A. Baker state parks," Bryan said. "Of course our neighbor is the National Park Service with the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and the world-famous Current and Jacks Fork rivers.
"There are historic springs, Missouri's growing elk herd is just over the hill at Peck Grass Conservation Area, Rocky Falls is right down the road; all of that is within 30 minutes to an hour from Echo Bluff."
Echo Bluff is Missouri's 88th state park. Bryan said it'll attract more visitors to the region and have a positive impact on both the state and local economy.
"What we've done here is develop a destination for families to use as a base camp, so they can experience everything that the Ozarks has to offer 365 days a year," he said. "It's a pretty easy drive from Springfield, St. Louis or Kansas City, and it's very scenic … people can get here from different directions and then be centrally located to experience other things in the area … and it's a nice place to stay."
The new park has a restaurant, 20-room lodge, five cabins and four stacked duplex cabins, in addition to primitive camping and RV sites.
Echo Bluff was built on the site of an old summer camp that in recent years had hosted outdoor concerts where illegal drugs were sold and consumed.
"Missourians have been making memories here since 1929, and it's only a very short window in that history that was occupied by the concerts, the drug raids, and that sort of thing," Bryan said. "That is something that's part of the past, (but) the history of this property is its future; a place for families and children to enjoy the outdoors."
He said that park officials will regularly work with local law enforcement to make sure that visitors feel safe.
"We're ready to meet any challenges that do arise, and I'm more concerned with making sure our visitors have a fun experience and that they're safe than I am about what happened here in the past."
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport
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