State park near Branson, Mo., will open with a new name

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 1:11 PM CDT
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BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) - Missouri Gov. Mike Parson celebrated the reopening and the name change of a new state park near Branson. The state changed the name of Ozark Mountain State Park to Shepherd of the Hills State Park.

The state hopes to open the park in 2024. Visitors will see more than 700 known plant species and 53 breeding bird species. Visitors will explore 400 acres of meadows, more than two miles of Roark Creek, and five other tributary streams.

“We take all comments and suggestions into consideration,” said Dru Buntin, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. “And we listened when a proposal to change the park’s name came to us from the Society of the Ozarkian Hillcrofters.”

The change comes after considering comments and suggestions submitted by the public at four public meetings held at the park. Governor Mike Parson says the park honors the area’s history.

“This is a historic event for Missouri State Parks,” said Governor Mike Parson. “We are not only unveiling a new name, but we are also honoring a talented writer whose book brought tourists to the area so many years ago and continues to do so today.”

In his book, “The Shepherd of the Hills,” Harold Bell Wright’s description of the region’s beauty detailed why he was drawn to the area, but it also caused readers to want to see it for themselves.

“As Missouri celebrates more than 200 years of statehood, it is fitting to recognize those whose lives have contributed to its rich history,” Buntin said. “Capturing the imagination of a nation, the vivid descriptions of the Roark Valley and the personalities of the Ozark Region were the impetus for the explosion of tourism and population growth in the Branson area.”

Renaming the park honors Wright’s contributions to the region. His description of the region drew thousands of visitors to the area for more than a century and will continue to do so for generations. The announcement happened on what would have been Harold Bell Wright’s 150th birthday.

Shepherd of the Hills State Park is located at 4424 Sycamore Church Road, Branson. For more information about the event, please contact Carl Bonnell, Ozark Region deputy director, at 417-334-4704.

For more information on the park’s conceptual development plan, please visit mostateparks.com/page/90071/conceptual-development-plans.

For more information on Missouri state parks and historical sites or to view the Park and Site Status Map, visit mostateparks.com. Missouri State Parks is a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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