Echo Bluff State Park opening brings potential for local businesses

Echo Bluff State Park, the newest state park in Missouri, will open on Saturday in the center of Ozarks, potentially bringing many opportunities for businesses, recreation and adventure.

The land in Shannon County that makes up Echo Bluff State Park was acquired by the state at a 2013 U.S. Marshals auction, according to Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks. To become a state park, an area needs natural and cultural significance. The Echo Bluff park has many such offerings, like the sinking creek and intact habitats of different species, such as bats. The park also provides an opportunity to conserve and protect Missouri land, Bryan said.

The park is expected to draw tourists from places like Illinois, Tennessee and Texas to the Ozarks. While campers previously could only stay in the area for a weekend, the park’s new lodge facilities allow for a weeklong stay.

Bryan said that existing local businesses can currently cater to the needs of visitors, but as the park attracts more people, their needs and wants will create the demand for more services. This will be a boom for the local entrepreneurs.

For example, several trail-ride businesses have set up operations on park premises. Bryan said that there hadn’t been enough people for such businesses to cover costs, but the expected increase in visitors brings the potential for more revenue.

Other services not provided by the park administration, such as soda shops, grocery stores, antique vendors, zip lines and float services, can be taken up by local businesses. Local merchants are responsible for the presence of their product, as well as sales and marketing. Businesses outside the park can also market their product to the park visitors, according to Bryan.

“We built the park, now it is up to the local merchants what they make of it,” Bryan said.

During construction, which took 30 months, up to 125 workers were needed. The park’s present staff consists of six full-time and 20 part-time employees. Other facilities for dining and accommodation have about 20 local workers. A park ranger will patrol the area, and emergencies services can be provided at the hospital nearby in Salem.

The park is scheduled to open 10 a.m. Saturday.

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