The Army Corps of Engineers closed the campgrounds on the patch of land in the 1990s to cut costs. But nearby residents like P.J. Baeza know the closure has done little to keep people out.
"People still use it," she remarked. "It's the only place to launch their boat. Not as pleasant people go down there. There's been more drugs."
Baeza runs the nearby Joe Bald market, and she said she has been excited to see local leaders take steps to renovate the park.
"If they had someone to maintain the park, that's what's going to help keep the unwanted out of there," she said.
The effort to find a new use for the area began with the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce and its director, Dave Liebenow. Liebenow said he wants to collect ideas for restoring the park, and even turn it into a revenue generator.
"This is a beautiful piece of property," he said. "Great access from the lake, there's a multitude of things we can do with this."
That's why the chamber has enlisted the help of a group of students from Drury University. Jay Garrott, the director of the school's architecture program, requires his students to pick a different project to work on each semester.
The class undertaking the Joe Bald study is examining ways to turn the park into an outdoor recreation center, but also brainstorming potential partnerships the Army Corps of Engineers could form with local groups to run and maintain it.
"The appropriations from the corps of engineers to support Joe Bald Park really dried up," Garrott explained. "So looking to the federal government for help may not develop over the next 20 years."
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