Steering committee named for Old St. Francis River

Sunday, July 7, 2002

DEXTER, Mo. -- A nine-member committee has been appointed by the Dunklin County Commission to spearhead an effort to restore the Old St. Francis River Channel in northwestern Dunklin County.

The steering committee is a product of a meeting the county commission hosted in late May in Campbell to test public interest in establishing a 17-mile section of the Old St. Francis River channel as a fishing and wildlife area.

The effort to establish the old river channel as a public recreation area dates back 40 years. The first effort to utilize the river channel was begun a short time after the present river channel was cut. Arkansas, Missouri and the Corps of Engineers cooperated on the idea. A design with dikes and pumps to maintain the water level in the channel was drawn up and landowners with property adjacent to the channel were asked for 20-foot easements. Most were agreeable, but at the time the effort failed because of strong opposition by one landowner.

The Old St. Francis River Steering Committee will be chaired by Tom Vavak. Its membership is made up of seven members from Missouri and two from Arkansas. In addition to Vavak, Missouri members are Lloyd Miller, Chuck Allen, Dow Crum, Gerald Malin, Carl Williams, former county commission member and Charles Isbell, county clerk. Arkansas members are Darrell Dalton and former state Rep. Richard Simmons.

Miller, who has long been involved in the idea of restoring the river channel, said, "There is great potential in the area. We work to try to build things and here we have right in our back door some of the most beautiful water and wildlife habitat that God has built which could benefit the whole area."In the early 1990s, when Missouri Conservation Department officials met with the county commission to discuss a proposal to build a lake east of Kennett, the subject of the Old St. Francis riverbed was brought up, but was not given serious attention.

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