Missouri State Park
Missouri State Park
Missouri state parks and historic sites are administered by the Division of State Parks, which is a part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Its main responsibilities are the administration of the Missouri state park system, and coordination of statewide programs in the areas of outdoor recreation and trails.
The mission of the state park system is to preserve and interpret the state’s most outstanding natural landscapes and cultural landmarks, and to provide outstanding recreational opportunities compatible with those resources.
Missouri’s state park system, which on multiple occasions has been ranked as one of the top four state park systems in the nation, contains 91 state parks and historic sites plus the trails at Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry. Within more than 160,000 acres available to the public, the state park system has something to fit everyone’s needs. The system includes homes of famous Missourians, Civil War battlefields; and reminders of yesterday such as gristmills and covered bridges. The state’s most outstanding landscapes are preserved here for everyone’s enjoyment – deep forests, glades, prairies and blue streams and lakes.
To help visitors enjoy their stay, the system offers more than 2,000 structures, 3,500 campsites, 194 cabins, almost 2,000 picnic sites, and more than 1,000 miles of trail. These trails include opportunities for hikers, backpackers, bicycle riders, off-road vehicle users and horseback riders. The system boasts the longest developed rails-to-trail project in the nation: Katy Trail State Park. In 2016, more than 20 million people visited to hike, camp, fish, discover the past and explore nature
The primary source of funding for the state park system is half of the dedicated constitutional tax of one-tenth-of-one-percent Parks, Soils and Water Sales Tax, which provides about three-fourths of the division’s budget for operation and development of state parks. All additional funding comes from revenues generated in the state park system and some federal funds.
The park, soils and water tax was created through a constitutional amendment and earmarked specifically for the state park system and efforts to stop soil erosion. The tax was first approved by voters in 1984, and has since been reapproved by voters four times, in 1988, 1996, 2006 and 2016. At least two-thirds of voters approved the tax the last four times, showing how much Missouri voters support their state park system.
The state park system has a unique role in an integrated effort to provide parks, open spaces and cultural opportunities for local citizens. Generally, local and community parks focus on providing recreation and open spaces close to home. National parks were created to preserve natural and historic wonders of national and international significance. A state park system fits somewhere in between: It preserves landscapes and cultural features of at least statewide or regional significance and provides appropriate or compatible recreation.