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Hoping for Happy Trails...
April 2002

About 45 people attended a public meeting Monday to hear reports on a proposal to extend the Ozark Highland Trail in Baxter County to connect with other federal land encompassing Lake Norfork.

The new Baxter County leg of the trail will add about 28 miles to the Trans-Ozark Trail system, linking Lake Fort Smith to St. Louis via the Ozark Trail in Missouri, where 309 miles have been built. 

The Trans-Ozark Trail will be almost 1000 miles long when completed.

Presenters Monday included Ozark Highland Trail volunteer advocates Duane Woltjen of Fayetteville and Wylaine Korbelik of Jordan; Bill Woodiel, a Trail of Tears historian; John Hiser of the U.S. Army of Engineers; Justice of the Peace Lynn Lasky; Harrison attorney Scott Covington; and County Judge Joe Bodenhamer.

Bodenhamer said he called the public meeting for disseminating accurate information about the trail to residents of Baxter County.

Lasky told the group he is not opposed to the trail. He is opposed, however, to government use of powers of imminent domain or condemnation in creating rights-of-way for the trail.

Covington challenged Lasky's interpretation of an appendix to the federal National Trails System Act to assert that the federal government retains its powers of imminent domain in creating the federal trails. Covington said portions of the law where the government retains powers of imminent domain pertain to scenic or historic trails like the Appalachian Trail or the Trail of Tears. There are eight such trails in the U. S., he said.

In the case of recreational trails like the Ozark Highland Trail, the federal government opts not to acquire private land without consent of the property owner, said Covington.

"How much less can the government be involved than to lend its land for volunteers to develop at no cost to you?" asked Woltjen.

"We are not taking anyone's land," said Bodenhamer. "Had any one of us thought there would have been the remotest chance of that, we wouldn't be here tonight," said Bodenhamer.

Woodiel said the recreational trail will provide an excellent educational opportunity for hikers at the point the trail intersects with the Trail of Tears. He said he hopes the intersection of Ozark Highlands Trail and Trail of Tears in Baxter County will include a historic marker.

The trail proposal became an issue in Baxter County in March when a county resolution to keep the OZark Highlands Trail out of Baxter County was reviewed and tabled by the Quorum Court. Lasky sponsored the resolution.

The resolution has been referred to the county's newly formed Land Use Advisory Board for further review.

The advisory board members are: Sam Speer, David Lemoire, Richard Sheid, Joe Tullis and Joanne Losurdo.

Korbelik said the trail will provide an excellent way for the county to maximize use of its wooded lands.

"Providing more activities for residents of Baxter County lets us stay closer to home, while at the same time brings in revenues from those who travel to experience the Ozarks," she said. "This area has a lot of history. A hiking trail that could include Wolf House and Trail of Tears is a great way for people to get to experience these treasures.

"With the trail development primarily on federal property by volunteers, the construction and maintenance of the trails is at little or no cost to the state or county. Sounds like a win-win situation to me," said Korbelik.
 

 
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