Mo. DNR Seeks to Develop Trail and Dock at MT Lake

by Warren Hagan M.D.

Recreational water activities are a major objective, along with hydroelectric power and flood control, in the U. S. Army Corps of Engineer ’s mission*. This is authorized under Federal law: ER 1130-2-550 that mandates that the USACE shall provide quality public outdoor recreational experiences.

The USACE’s MT Lake 55,000-acre project has 18,600 acres of water surface at normal pool level. This water surface comprises 34% of the entire surface area of the USACE’s project. There are only two areas, Black Jack and Indian Creek marinas, that allow portals for boaters’ access to commercial food and fueling links that provide the boaters reasons to dismount. All other launch outlets are mainly for boat loading for lake access.

According to the USACE’s Master Plan*, 1.9 million visitors come to the lake each year since 2011. 95% come from within a 200-mile radius of the lake. Activities upon the water are limited to swimming, fishing, sailing, and boating. For the boating activity, they can burn gas while water skiing, tubing and sight-seeing by water. They can drop anchor and fish or meditate. Otherwise, not much else to do.
This project shall provide a marine destination of historical appreciation. It will have an associated kayak water trail. The lake would have a visitation spot: a water accessible day trip where they can disembark, stretch their legs and learn about historical Missouri legacies. In fact, Florida was founded due to its accessibility to the banks of the Salt River, now the damned Mark Twain Lake.

The features of interest include Mark Twain birth site with exhibits about the famous author, Indian mounds, log cabins, civil war battle sites including where U. S. Grant launched his march to the South, lodging, a winery, food and souvenir items.
Mo DNR, in conjunction with the FOF (“Friends of Florida”), proposes a kayak aquatic trail around the Florida peninsula. This trail’s epicenter would be based at the 12 boat-slip courtesy dock. A recreational trail grant shall be submitted in the near future.

Florida, and most of Monroe County, are the “Cinderella” portion of the MT Lake, i.e. the forgotten, financially ignored “step child” area of the USACE’s projects. This western segment of the lake rarely gets the attention of the US Corps’ funding. For example, developments at the eastern Dam area include a shooting range that cost $155,250*, an equestrian stables and cabins cost $168,592 (Spalding area), and rehabilitation of the Eagle Nature trail $70,000* (Boudreaux area), and marina improvements at Behrens area $5,600,000.00.* The US Corps master plan apparently claimed credit for the Mark Twain recreational trail expenses of $33,000.00*, but, this project was funded for the most part by the Federal Highway Agency recreational trails grant, Monroe County commission, Friends of Florida and its contributors. In stark contrast, for development of the western end of the lake, the USACE in 2004 removed from the Master plan development of a third potential marina to be developed at Florida on the Missouri State Park site*.

Friends of Florida strongly solicits the help of USACE’s resources and budgets to develop the western (predominantly Monroe County) end of the Lake at least to the equality of assigning developments and resources. Hence, the feeling of being a discriminated area of lake in terms of project development. Since this is budget neutral for the USACE, being fully funded only by the State of Missouri, we urge the USACE to expedite the Mo DNR’s request, and not be obstructive in terms of regulations.

The state park would develop this project. They have a 12-slip boat dock available, relatively new. The slips would be available for limited daily use. Its operation and maintenance would be conducted by the Mo. DNR. It would be located at the Mark Twain State Park near the museum. The site has yet to be determined as to the north or the south side of the museum location. ADA access and wave abatement concerns will be major factors in the final selection of the site.

Initial meeting was held October 2017, and again in January 2019. Funding would have to be thru the Mo DNR and grants. FOF hope to help develop grants. Officials in attendance included:

Ben Ellis, Director of Mo Dept of Parks and Recreation, David Kelly Asst Director of Mo DNR’s operations, Jack Winburn Northeast Mo Director of DNR, and recently retired Kevin Bolling Park Superintendent.

Representative Jim Hansen (R) Franklin 40th District and US congressman Sam Graves’s (R) Mo 9th district staff has been in attendance as well and support the concepts. Representative Hansen has motivated the Mo DNR to pursue this project in a timely fashion.

Monroe County Commission has endorsed the proposal as long as it does not create a financial burden for the county. Senator Jeanie Riddle (R) Fulton has tentatively supported this project.

Anyone wishing to contribute to this project can send donations to the Friends of Florida, c/o Warren Hagan M.D. 20578 Monroe Road 543, Main at Mill Streets, Florida, Mo. 65283


Attachements: two aerial photographs.

*Source: U.S. Corps of Engineers’ Master Plan for Mark Twain Lake 2015 3/17/2019