If floating down a river or spending time in nature is on your summer to-do list, then you'll likely be going to the Current River to kick off your vacation.
Located in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, the Current River and its tributary, the Jacks Fork, were the first rivers in the nation to be protected as a national park, and bring in an average 1.3 million visitors for outdoor activities in and along its banks. Many Missourians and others from the region have fond memories of family vacations to this scenic river.
However, the Current River was recently named one of the nation's 10 most endangered riverways, due to a rise in illegal roadways, torn up trails, and the resulting degradation of water quality and natural habitat. If the river is not better managed, the family float trip tradition may fade, endangered species such as the Ozark Hellbender will continue to be threatened, and we'll lose this gem that helps define Missouri.
But, this summer we have a special chance to improve the future of the Current River. The National Park Service is working on a management plan for the river, which will be in effect for the next 20 years. It's absolutely vital for the future of this park that the National Park Service adopt a strong plan to rehabilitate the park to the state that many fondly remember it as, and it's our job to persuade them to implement much-needed protections.
MELISSA SAALE, Waterloo, Ill.