- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

EMINENCE, Mo. (AP) - A new state park in southern Missouri could offer some competition for canoe rental companies.

Missouri State Parks wants to provide floating for guests at the Echo Bluff State Park, a $52 million facility that is expected to open by late summer in Shannon County, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1XcTfJc ) reports.

Steph Deidrick, spokeswoman for Missouri State Parks, said in a statement that the department wants to launch canoes into Sinking Creek, which flows into the Current River north of Eminence.

But obtaining permits isn’t easy. One option is buying an existing business and then applying to take over its permit. Another option is to compete directly against existing businesses for a permit when concessionaires reapply for one of 15 permits later this year.

The potential floating operation would be managed by the park’s concessionaire, which is the case at other state parks with floating operations, Deidrick said. It was unclear Sunday what company would get that contract. State parks did announce in January that Virginia-based Guest Services Management would operate concessions at the park.

The actual permit holder would be the state, though, Deidrick said.

The possible venture has reached the Missouri House floor, where state Rep. Robert Ross, R-Yukon, has criticized it at least twice.

“I think it’s absolutely offensive that our tax dollars would be even considered for use toward purchasing a private business which is going to directly compete with other private businesses that are already in existence in this area,” Ross said in an interview.

The state bought the former Camp Zoe property at auction in 2013 for $640,000. For decades, it was a children’s summer camp popular with kids from the St. Louis area.

More recently, the land was home to music festivals and what law enforcement said was an open-air drug market. On Halloween weekend 2010, drug enforcement agents raided the property and charged its owner with maintaining a drug-involved premises.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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