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Category Archives: Branson

Stimulus or business as usual?


It’s hard to argue with a new bridge.

The view of the existing bridge between Branson and Hollister is now a historical relic. A new bridge is being constructed now, as you can see below. Once the new bridge is completed, the old bridge (built in 1931) will be closed for major repairs before reopening in a couple of years.

The $7.4 million new bridge project is being paid for largely by so-called stimulus funding, appropriated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The rehabilitation of the old bridge is is financed from an $4.8 million earmark arranged by Read the rest of this entry

Branson lakefront deal goes from good to bad. Not what you’re thinking, though.


You know the story. The City of Branson gives a great deal to a private business to create an attraction on the Taneycomo lakefront. A few years later, the City doesn’t think the deal is working well for the City. The political winds have changed. Now there’s a lawsuit. Here’s how it went down, more than a half-century ago.

Jim Owen–not to be confused with the singer–played a major role in putting Branson on the tourism map. A consummate promoter of float fishing on the James and White rivers and tourism and commerce in the Branson area, he was unstoppable. Born in Webster County, Missouri (east of Springfield), he came to Branson in 1933, already experienced with public relations.

Soon Jim had built a movie theatre and started a float fishing business that got national attention and was also a banker and farmer. Some fine person posted this promotional silent film of one of his trips (11 minutes long) Read the rest of this entry

Taking a fresh look at the history, politics and ecology of the rainbow trout fishing industry


This morning, I scanned the headlines of Arts and Letters Daily, and was jolted by this:

Behold the regal rainbow trout, dappled denizen of deep lake and rushing river, fierce hunter of fish and fly—and prize of pork-barrel politics, invigorator of men, eradicator of native species, payload of numerous bombing missions.

Intrigued, I followed links to the webpage of Anders Halverson, the author of these words, whose book, An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How One Fish Beguiled American and Overran the World, has recently been published by Yale University Press.

I have accepted rainbow trout fishing as simply a part of the world as I know it. I live a couple of blocks from Lake Taneycomo, where almost every day of the year I wake to the sounds of motors on the boats of trout anglers. While the Branson entertainment business ebbs and flows, the trout-fishing business in Branson seems to be evergreen, though it requires that tax and permit revenues be spent for propagating the trout, enforcing regulatons, and protecting the quality of the fishery. My own fishing license bears a trout stamp.

cover of An Entirely Synthetic Fish

As a child, I read Bill Potter’s annual accounts of the trout season’s March 1 opening day in the Joplin Globe, and the Missouri Conservationist’s articles about the Missouri Department of Conservation’s hatcheries and stocking programs for rainbow trout and the need to buy a trout stamp in addition to a fishing license to support these activities. School children in my home county were taken to the Neosho National Fish Hatchery, America’s oldest federal fish hatchery, it was said, for educational tours. The Missouri Department of Conservation stocked rainbows in Capps Creek, a short spring-fed tributary of Shoal Creek near my childhood home in eastern Newton County, Missouri.

Opening day at trout parks around the Ozarks, notably at Roaring River, Bennett Spring, Montauk and Meramec state parks in Missouri is a ritual for thousands. Shoulder to shoulder, in all kinds of weather, stouthearted anglers line the banks and tangle lines to catch newly-stocked rainbows and browns. Trout are stocked and pursued in various other cool rivers in the Ozarks, such as the White River below Beaver and Bull Shoals dams, the North Fork of of the White River, and the Current River. There are numerous private “trout farms” where trout are raised for sale to restaurants, some of which allow fishing. Trout fishing is economically important in the Ozarks.

Lately, I was aware that the Neosho fish hatchery was the beneficiary of a $1 million appropriation for a new visitors center and a solar water heater (to aid in the propagation of the pallid sturgeon) contained in the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. A visitors center itself doesn’t hatch fish, but the construction of it helps the Neosho economy, creates a few permanent government jobs, and builds support for the program. The Neosho hatchery obtains rainbow trout eggs from the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Shepherd of the Hills Hatchery in Branson and raises fingerlings which are transported back to Lake Taneycomo and other Missouri trout fisheries.

I guess I’ll read An Entirely Synthetic Fish and begin the uncomfortable process of reexamining something that I had accepted without much thought. I wonder where I’ll end up.

Branson Landing land titles: how soon we forget how it was just 10 years ago!


Pictures help to tell the story that lies underneath the disputed land titles at the north end of Branson Landing. You can click on these images to enlarge them. Here’s the 1913 plat of Park Addition to the City of Branson.

The southwest corner of the Belk building sits about where Sycamore Street joins what has been called St. Limas Street and Boxcar Willie Drive, now Branson Landing Boulevard. The platted lots in Block 4 of Park Addition were the location of resorts until construction of Branson Landing began. Mang Park, with a baseball diamond and swimming pool, occupied Read the rest of this entry

Jury muddles title to North Beach Park and part of Branson Landing


On January 14, 2010, a Taney County jury rendered its verdict on the counterclaim of Doug Coverdell and Coverdell Enterprises against Empire District Electric Company, the Joplin-based utility that owns Lake Taneycomo and some adjacent land.

Coverdell’s counterclaim apparently sought to determine that Coverdell had better title than Empire to Branson’s North Beach Park and the north end of Branson Landing, possibly extending as far south as the north quarter of the parking garage.

The City of Branson has leased North Beach Park from Empire for decades. The deeds that the jury seemed to affirm include land that the City bought from owners other than Empire as well as land owned by persons not involved in the lawsuit.

A quiet title suit often doesn’t absolutely determine ownership, but only determines which of the litigants has a better claim to title. Without a definite legal description and the participation of all the owners, a verdict like the one here is much less than certain.

As events unfold, I’ll explain more here. If you want to get an email notification of updates to this blog, check the email box in the upper right corner of your screen.

Having reviewed portions of the court file, my tentative conclusion is that the jury’s verdict is a long way from resolving the dispute. Empire has filed a post-trial motion and others will be assessing their options. A judgment does not become final for 30 days, which can be extended by the filing of post-trial motions.

An overview of Ozarks fiction


I’ve posted as a page, under the “Diversions” category (see sidebar), a work in progress, which is an overview of Ozarks fiction. My intent is to gradually assemble a fairly detailed compilation of links and impressions about fiction in which the setting of the Ozarks and the people of the Ozarks play significant roles.

I hope readers will comment, point out out omissions and quibble with my choices of authors and titles to mention. As I receive comments and suggestions, I’ll make changes in the body of the text, so that we’ll end up with a wiki-type compiliation.

Don’t be shy about commenting.

Fathers of my understanding of the Ozarks


Someone looking at my life could correctly observe that my life’s work has consisted of absorbing all I can about the history, economy and people of the Ozarks. I began this undertaking as a youngster at the Newton County Library in Neosho in about 1960, probably with a book by Vance Randolph or the Chapmans’ Indians and Archaeology of Missouri.

Much of what I have learned about life in the Ozarks has come from living and working in the Ozarks. But what I’ve learned from books and scholars has given me a mental framework for organizing what I have learned and helps me to be a better observer. Read the rest of this entry

Table Rock Lake and the cost of economic activity

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Kathleen O’Dell’s article about the economic impact of Table Rock Lake in today’s Springfield News-Leader, entitled “Table Rock Dam Gives Much Back to Area,” covers a lot of ground in describing the various kinds of economic activities that are related to the construction and continued existence of Table Rock Lake.

In an economic sense, is the Table Rock Lake area fit (efficient and nimble) or obese (expensive to maintain and subject to falls)? As pointed out below, the two counties most affected by Table Rock Lake have experienced the area’s lowest growth in Read the rest of this entry

Take a trip to the past on Memorial Day

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Forsyth Cemetery

Forsyth Cemetery

Cemeteries, for me, offer a place of quiet contemplation. Sometimes, I know just enough of the people buried there to set my imagination running about lives, times and places.

This cemetery in Forsyth holds the remains of Nathaniel Kinney, who led a vigilante group, the Bald Knobbers, for five years before losing his life to vengeance. It also holds the remains of John Hilsabeck, who operated a hotel on the White River at the mouth of Swan Creek in the old Forsyth townsite. At this cemetery, in 1892, John Wesley Bright was hung after having been pulled out of the Taney County jail where he was held for the killing of his young wife.

Branson cemetery

Branson cemetery

Rueben Branson, Branson’s first postmaster, and his wife Mary lie here, in this green place in downtown Branson.

Over the past few years, I’ve been photographing the graves of my ancestors in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, trying to imagine the communities where they lived and died and the landscapes they encountered in the 1800s.

If you don’t know where your ancestors were buried, you can often find them on the internet.

Branson Landing and FEMA


Several people have asked me about my take on the allegations that FEMA was given incomplete or inaccurate information about the flood-plain status of buildings in Branson Landing.

My firm represents several tenants and condo unit owners in Brans0n Landing and also represents another party in an appeal of an administrative determination made by Branson’s Department of Planning and Development.

I am withholding comment about the Branson Landing-FEMA controversy for two reasons:

  • I don’t know anything
  • I don’t want to inadvertently make a statement that would affect my firm’s ability to represent its clients.
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