Viney Creek Recreational Area headed toward closure

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Lease with Missouri State Parks not being renewed

After five years of operation by Missouri State Parks, the use of Viney Creek Recreational Area looks to be coming to an end.

Missouri State Parks Director Ben Ellis said the organization does not intend to renew the lease that saved the campground and lake access point in 2014. Cost of operating the Area versus spending state money on other area parks was the deciding factor.

Laurie Driver, public affairs specialist with the Army Corps of Engineers in Little Rock, Ark., said the Corps will maintain ownership of the park and hopes to lease it to another political subdivision or private entity for operation, but the future looks grim.

“It looks like Missouri State Parks will not be renewing its lease at the end of the recreation season in October,” Driver said. “They have not submitted any of the formal paperwork yet, but they have indicated that is the plan. I do not think we will go through the whole leasing process again. We tentatively plan to close the Area and reach out to others to lease it. But, there is not a lot of interest at this time.”

According to revenue and expenditure reports for 2014-2018, Missouri State Parks spent between $21,746.02 and $41,085.83 on the Area annually. In 2014, 2015 and 2019, the Area operated at losses of $14,439.58, $3,484.69 and $21,247.44, respectively. In 2016 and 2017, the Area provided $11,790.10 and $536.91, respectively, in income. Attendance at Viney Creek over the 5-year period ranged from a low of 9,939 in 2014 to a high of 46,261 in 2016. In 2015 and 2018, attendance was about 23,000, and in 2017, attendance was about 38,000. The majority of those who stay at Viney Creek come from the southwest Missouri and Barry County area.

“No agencies have stepped up at our workshops, but if an entity comes to us, we will see what we can do,” Driver said. “We would very much like to see an entity take it over and continue to keep it operational.”

Driver said Corps budget constraints and usage among all its properties prevent the Corps from operating Viney Creek.

“We have to put the money where the most people go,” Driver said.

Viney Creek Recreational Area was included with Big Sugar Creek under the umbrella of Roaring River State Park, meaning Roaring River crews often took equipment to Viney Creek for mowing, campground upkeep and campground hosts, the latter of which have been harder to attain.

Gary Youngblood, Barry County presiding commissioner, said it is unlikely the county will pursue leasing the property from the Corps either.

“The way we look at it is the Corps has more money than the state, and the state has more money than the county, and neither one of them want to do it, and we can’t afford it,” Youngblood said. “We have got to take care of county-wide issues. The Corps took taxpayers’ land to build Viney Creek, and now they want to dump it.

“I hope there is a political subdivision down there with some interest, like a fire department or Emerald Beach, but I don’t see any interest right now. We haven’t talked to anyone about it, but there are options out there.”

A sticking point at the Area is the repair of the septic system and shower house, projects which both need immediate attention.

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