Free Access to the Best of Nature in Missouri

Growing up in the St. Louis suburbs, many summers were spent cooling down in the rivers and streams of Missouri. My favorite spot as a kid was Johnson Shut-ins sitting on the large boulders as the cool, clear water would rush past us. All these years later I can still hear the sounds of families enjoying nature together on those perfect summer days as they jumped rock to rock. Little did I know then how special the Missouri State Parks were compared to other state park systems.

Photo from USFWS

Not far from Johnson Shut-ins is 1.5 billion year old granite boulders that look like elephants at Elephant Rocks State Park. As curious as these geologic formations are, there are other state parks in Missouri that draw more attention. USA Today readers ranked Ha Ha Tonka State Park as one of the top 10 state parks in the country. The park is situated on the popular Lake of the Ozarks and includes picturesque views with sink holes, caves and an old castle on their 15 miles of trails and offers habitat for white-tailed deer, birds, and raccoons. What makes these parks even more special is the lack of an entry fee.

Instead of paying to enter like in other states, Missouri citizens have supported a small sales tax, the Parks, Soils and Water Tax, which allows anyone to visit any state park or historic park free of charge. For more than thirty years, this tax has provided an effective revenue stream to allow free entry and maintain state parks using only one-tenth-of-one-percent sales tax. In addition to supporting the state parks, this useful tax also funds soil conservation and water quality programs in the state.

The Park, Soils and Water Tax has proven its worth. More than 18 million people visit the state parks each year, giving families ample opportunities to create childhood memories like mine that last a lifetime. Those visitors generate more than $1 billion dollars in economic impact and support 14,000 jobs in communities throughout the state.

Elephant rocks. Photo by Kbh3rd, Wikipedia Creative Commons
Elephant rocks. Photo by Kbh3rd, Wikipedia Creative Commons

By law, this important tax is up for renewal every ten years, and on this year’s ballot in Missouri it is Amendment 1. The Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax had more than 70% approval in 2006 and continues to garner support by diverse individuals, organizations and industries from across all political affiliations working together to ensure this important funding stream continues. The National Wildlife Federation and our affiliate, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, support Amendment 1 to renew the Parks, Soils and Water Tax ensuring Missouri “state parks remain free for all visitors, the waters flow clean and the soil stays on the landscape”.

If you live in the state of Missouri, vote yes on Missouri’s Amendment 1 on November 8th to continue the success of the state’s parks, soils and water for future generations. If you live outside the state, still show your support by tweeting the following: