Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Green and Blue… and Gold

   A view of wooded hills surrounding Bull Shoals Lake today, all public land.   When the master plan for the lake goes into effect, most of this will be gone, replaced by private homes and docks just above the high water line.

       I moved near Bull Shoals Lake in 1972 and it has been my favorite reservoir since then.  I don’t know how many acres around it was saved by putting them in public ownership, but it is a considerable amount, maybe 60 or 70 thousand acres set aside and preserved as is.
       It is all what they call “Corps Land”. Because of that the shore of most of Bull Shoals has been protected from the elite, from the developers and the people who live their lives for money.  Those developers, many of them who fought the preservation of the Buffalo, are now seeing silver and gold along the shores of Bull Shoals.

       Thank goodness, we always had Table Rock and Lake of the Ozarks and Beaver and most every other Ozark reservoir for them.  It kept their money grubbing hands off Bull Shoals for awhile.  Bull Shoals was for us common folks who disdained the shores lined with vacation homes and boat docks and trailer parks where you could see the water just below from your built-on deck.

       You know what Bull Shoals was?   It was a haven where no roads were built, and a natural shoreline with green buffer land above it. It wasn’t a place for the extremely wealthy to claim as their own and tell the rest of us to stay out.  It was a place where septic tanks didn’t drain, a place where big oaks and walnuts and hickories and cedars stood, where wild turkeys and deer traveled the same paths that all of us could walk as well.  It was a place where flying squirrels and owls and a myriad of species of songbirds lived. With another generation... that meant something.

       Now they are holding meetings down around Bull Shoals, especially in Mt. Home, Arkansas, where tens of thousands of retirees come to live the later years of their lives.  Most of them are glad that it isn’t another Branson.  At those meetings they are discussing the Corps new “Master Plan for Bull Shoals”.  What that means is, a plan to bring the money Branson and Table Rock are known for, to a fairly pristine area.

       I heard one guy on television talking about the money a new plan could bring in.  He makes his money out of tourism and he complained that they weren’t able to cut trees below homes already there, so they could see the lake.  “Tourist friendly” he called it. If a new “master plan” is adopted, he can cut lots of trees and he might make a few more dollars each week!

       Lawyer Jones can move down from Kansas City, where he made millions in courts he helped to corrupt, and claim a little of the acreage now owned by all of us, for his very own. He can build a million dollar place just above the high water line and he can expect the government to cut a mile long road into it, and work with developers to put in some docks which are his and his alone where no one can step foot on them without his permission.

              The “Master Plan” means this…. We take thousands of acres owned by all the people and we make it a place owned mostly by the few very wealthy folks who want to flee the big cities.  The “Master Plan” means you’ll soon see roads and homes and private boat docks by the hundreds along banks that now give a view of green hills and blue water.

       Then the real estate developers can really make some money. They are salivating in anticipation!  And oh yes, that fellow on television talking about making Bull Shoals “tourist friendly’; he can get more money for his fishing service and at his bait shop, cause he loves people like Lawyer Jones.  Maybe he too can buy a little tract where he can set a mobile home.
       It would be nice if I could get some of those television news people to go with me and spend a few hours there seeing the Bull Shoals I know.  But television people don’t do that.  I called and volunteered my time and a boat, and I can’t get them to return a call.  I know the country is too rough for them and they might get a tick.  And besides that, Bull Shoals developers would raise heck with them for showing another side to that story.

       Unfortunately Bull Shoals as it is isn’t making anyone enough money.  It has many fine resorts, but the bad thing is, those resorts were built back up on ridges away from the lake and you might have to drive a mile or so to a launching ramp to put your boat in.

         There are launching ramps aplenty on Bull Shoals, but not nearly enough for Lawyer Jones who doesn’t want to drive a whole mile and wait ten minutes to put in his 250 thousand dollar boat.  He wants his own dock, a big one filling up a whole cove, with bright lights and a swimming platform.  And soon, he will have it.

       So now I have given you a sneak peak of the new ‘Master Plan for Bull Shoals’.   It has been the plan for some time now, and it will take that magnificent natural body of land around the lake from all of us and give it to just a few. They don’t have enough of such ground left on Table Rock or Beaver Lake or Lake of the Ozarks. Most of it is claimed. So Bull Shoals is next.

       If you doubt what I say, wait and watch. In the meantime you might want to go walk those wooded hills this fall.  You might want to go hunt it this fall while you still can. Much of it, like that Jones Point Wildlife Area near the Highway 125 ferry, is great hunting.  It will be a prime spot for roads and logging companies soon, and then the homes and docks.
       Those trees are are seventy or eighty years uncut, and big. They’ll make some loggers big money.  Most of the wildlife found there in that forest will survive to some extent as semi-tame.  Folks love to see birds and deer at their feeders off the back porch.
       Some species won’t survive, like the mountain boomers that live in the cedar glades.  But what the heck, those collared lizards aren’t worth anything...The land is.  You might be able to get up to ten thousand dollars an acre for much of that land if you are a developer.  All you have to do is take it out of public ownership.  And the Corp’s ‘Master Plan” is about to do just that.

       If you are just a plain old Ozark county person and this makes you a little bit sick, remember that we treasured such places as Bull Shoals in a wild setting because we are older than those who want it to be ‘tourist friendly’.  We remember a different time.  There were things we wouldn’t sacrifice for money.
       What voice do we have, those of us who have fished one of those remote coves at sunset in a 500 dollar fishing boat? Will our grandchildren care about seeing wild ducks circle above a cove in the fall in a golden sunset?  I doubt that kind of gold will mean much to anyone in another fifty years.
       That kind of gold has no value in a “Master Plan”. Present generations want big expansive lakeside resorts and plenty of fast boats and jet-skis.   And they want to see the water for the day or so they rent a cabin, they do not want to see trees that block the view.

       The public meetings are a joke.  Bull Shoals Lake’s future HAS BEEN DECIDED!   Soon a privileged few will own those green hillsides and what we knew will slowly disappear. And in time those of us who remember what that lake once was, will be gone and our memories won’t be of any importance.

       But I thank God he let me see it all those years as it is, as the forests grew, wild creatures thrived and it wasn’t just another Table Rock or Beaver Lake.  It belonged to us all.  The problem is… green and blue does not have the value of silver and gold.

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