Blunt waives camping fees for flood victims; park ready

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gov. Matt Blunt's announcement Friday that camping fees for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources parks would be waived for families displaced by the recent flooding came as a surprise to the superintendent for Trail of Tears State Park.

But it was a familiar decision.

"They did that in 1993," said Hershel Price, park superintendent. "We didn't have a whole lot of folks that did [camp]. We had maybe one or two people flooded out of their homes and they were looking for a place to stay and we let them stay at the state park till they could get their homes back in place."

Trail of Tears Park remains open despite several flooded areas.

"Mother Nature sure has slapped us around this year," Price said, referring to a series of storm-related problems, starting with February's ice storms, which closed the park for weeks. In March, Price said, the "gully-washing rain" caused damage that has not yet been repaired, including eroding an earthen dam. To preserve the dam as much as possible, water levels in Lake Boutin were lowered, but that caused swimming to be canceled for the rest of the summer, he said.

Currently, low-lying park roads, including Moccasin Springs near the railroad tracks and parts of the 11-mile Peewah Trail, are underwater. He estimated the lowest part of Moccasin Springs had more than five feet of water over it Friday. It would rise to nearly seven feet if the river crests at 41.5 feet as predicted Tuesday.

Price said the Mississippi River campground, which has 17 electric hookups for campers, is unreachable. But 35 nonwired sites near Lake Boutin are ready for campers. He said campers have already reserved three of the sites, which typically cost $9 a night.

Trail of Tears State Park has a bath house with hot showers and fresh water for campers at more rustic sites.

"We've got places to put folks for the next couple [or] three weeks," Price said.

Blunt's announcement Friday applies for all Missouri residents affected by flooding in counties with 2008 disaster declarations. Fees will be waived in 15-day increments.

Missouri has 38 state parks and historic sites with campgrounds. Wakonda State Park, near LaGrange Mo., was closed after a levee broke and flooded the area, Price said. For park details, call Trail of Tears at 573-290-5268 or the Department of Natural Resources 800-334-6946, or visit

335-6611, extension 127

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