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Visitors Center at Table Rock Open Despite Shutdown, Thanks to Foundation

The Army Corps of Engineers is in the process of ending it's partnership with the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation. But the non-profit is keeping the center open.
BRANSON, Mo. – In a poetic twist, a partnership that could soon end is keeping the visitors center at Table Rock Dam open to the public amidst a government shutdown.

The Dewey Short Visitors Center runs with the help of the Ozarks Rivers Heritage Foundation. Until a recent policy change decision, the foundation collected fees at campgrounds and other Corps facilities. 

But the decision changed the way the foundation could collect fees. Now, ORHF could shut down completely if it does not reach a new agreement with the Corps. In the meantime, the federal entity is glad to have a private group that can run the center during a shutdown.

“We're really glad for the fact that the volunteers are here today,” remarked Greg Oller, an administrator for the Corps office in Branson. “Otherwise we would have had to do something a lot different than we had planned.”

The open visitors center was glad news to the dozens of visitors on Friday.

John and Caroline Rooney came to Branson as a Plan C, after their trip to Yellowstone fell through because of the shutdown and a storm dampened their plans to go to Florida.

“So much for that idea,” John Rooney remarked. “We turned around and said, ‘What about Branson?’”

The Rooneys are the kind of people who expect public property to stay open. They were glad to see that volunteers and private workers kept the Dewey Short Visitors Center functioning.

“It belongs to the people, and it should be open to the people,” he said. “Regardless of the politics involved.”

 Sheila Thomas, who runs the Ozarks River Heritage Foundation, said the open visitors center highlights the importance of working together. The Corps has also added a volunteer from the Wounded Warriors program to help maintain facilities at Dewey Short and greet visitors.

“The fact that we are here and we are operating under a cooperative agreement is an example of how private public partnerships can work,” Thomas said.

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