Future Projects Are Main Topic At DNR’s Battle of Athens Public Meeting
By Kevin Fox
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources held a Public Meeting at the Battle of Athens State Historic Site on Monday, June 15. The DNR hosts such events as they provide officials the opportunity to share with the public an overview of the past year, plans and projects which are currently under implementation as well as goals for the coming year. These meetings also allow the public to ask questions as well as make comments concerning their particular state park. In attendance besides the public was 1st District Representative Brian Munzlinger, members of the Friends of Athens, and members of the Athens Park Development Association, along with staff of the Athens State Historic Site.
Making the opening presentation was Jim Rehard, District Supervisor of Northern Missouri Historic District. He gave an overview of state issues, as well as what was going on in this historic district of Missouri. There are 85 state parks and historic sites and the Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry in the State of Missouri. There are also 144,198 acres in parks and sites and 60,000 acres in the Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry. 15,676,557 people visited these locations during 2008. There were 598.35 classified employees during 2008 and 116.36 seasonal employees. The total operation and capitol improvement expenditures (less fringe benefits) were $39,237.783. The revenue from operations was $7,573,423. And finally the revenue from dedicated sales tax was $42,034,846.
The 2009 budget allocations for Battle of Athens for normal everyday expenses is $24,344.95, $18,771.00 for seasonal staff, $2,053.00 for special events, and $5,600.00 for small maintenance & repairs. The proposed figure for 2010 sees the park’s everyday expenses cut to $20,693.00 and seasonal staff cut to $11,000.00.
The 2009 budget allocations for Iliniwek Village State Historic Site for normal expenses was $2,005.07, $250.00 for special events and $1,000.00 for small maintenance and repairs. For 2010 this will be cut to $1,704.00 for normal everyday expenses.
Overall for the State of Missouri Department of Natural Resources was down by 10% of it’s revenues.
Jerry Toops, Natural Resource Manager for the Battle of Athens State Historic Site next spoke about projects, which have been completed or are in progress. This would include work on the maintenance buildings making them more available for staff to use, work on outbuildings which were in need of renovations, overhauling park equipment to provide safe working conditions for employees. Other projects included, fixing waterlines going into the new shelter house so that it could be used, and overhauling the park’s trails systems. Finally he added that an “Iron Ranger” a system whereby campers could pay for their campsites on an honor system after no staff was in the park camping area. Once staff arrived in the morning they can verify that campers had indeed paid for their sites. Toops also spook about upcoming projects, which would include new roofs for the McKee and Thome/Benning (Cannonball House) House and more work on the trails. Plans also call for water to be restored to the playground area where water lines to the hydrants had frozen and broken a couple years ago.
During the public’s question and answer session, questions revolved around a time in the future when a shower could be placed in the larger of the shelter’s house’s restrooms. Jim Rehard stated that there has always been concern about the clay soil in the park and storing the runoff water and disposing of it. But those in attendance felt that having a shower would only add to the services available at the park and make it more user friendly for extended camping if a shower was available. There was also concern that the park was not being fully utilized by residents of the county who may simply overlook the park or may not be aware of it’s attractions as well as camping and fishing facilities. Toops responded that local papers were very supportive of the park as well as other media services. There was also discussion on a research center being at the park where information could be looked at concerning the park, and it’s history. Toops stated that the staff had done a great deal of work in a room at the park’s office where information had been more properly filed so that access could be gained easier and the public was welcomed to explore related park information during normal business hours.
The Public Meeting wrapped up with this thought. The current economic situation will mean less money for Missouri Parks, on the other hand during tougher times people are more likely to visit areas closer to home rather than travel great distances. The Battle of Athens State Historic Site really is an undiscovered jewel in this county.