by Max Brantley
Protectors of the Buffalo National River are up in arms about approval of a permit for a factory hog feeding operation along Big Creek, a major tributary of the Buffalo. There's fear that manure spread on land nearby could migrate into the tributary to the Buffalo, a major tourist attraction for its clear, free-flowing water. We posted Don Nelms photo essay on the subject yesterday.
Which brings us to waste of another sort.
The state Parks, Tourism and Travel Commission reportedly discussed this morning a gripe reported to me yesterday.
Several years of flat federal budgets have led to a reduction in many federal services, including National Park Service operations. Here's the Park Service alert of the impact on facilities along the Buffalo River. A number of restrooms have been closed, including at several popular canoe launch spots, including Ponca and Pruitt.
Mike Mills of Buffalo Outdoor Center has been circulating word of unhappiness at what he's found at launch spots on account of closed restrooms. If effluent from hogs is a concern, so is effluent from humans.
Kevin Cheri, superintendent of the river, has heard roundabout about Mills' complaint and says he wished Mills had talked to him. He says the National River has lost more than 60 percent of maintenance staff as a result of flat budgeting and the rise in fixed costs, such as utilities. Despite that, he thinks the staff has done a good job of keeping up, through strategic closures and other means. But he says that everyone needs to pitch in, including through concession operators letting their customers know about closures and making preparations, such as restroom stops before heading to launch spots. Both Pruitt and Ponca are near still-operating restrooms, for example, Cheri said. Cheri also said he Park Service was working with some private groups to provide volunteer help, such as the adopt-a-highway litter cleanup programs.
"We're doing our best with what we have," Cheri said, "but we're asking users too to be more sensitive."