Roadside Parks in Missouri
Missouri’s state owned roadside parks, turnouts, and scenic overlooks are threatened and in jeopardy of becoming obsolete due to changing means of transportation, safety concerns, and attitudes about travel. Historically, these facilities enhanced the quality of the travel experience by providing tourists convenient places to stop and rest or view the scenery. They contribute to the history of American automobile travel and examples of them are common along highways such as Route 66 in Missouri, which is valued internationally as a unique resource and driving experience. The advent of multi-lane highways, increased speed limits, and the proliferation of corporate roadside services have threatened this category of roadside facilities. Once an integral part of the state highway system, these entities are increasingly viewed as dangerous and unnecessary. Some state agencies consider their use hazardous to public safety and consider their protection and maintenance a drain on highway budgets. Many of them are being vandalized or cut off from the highways they once facilitated, crating a loss of context and visual integrity, and many are being abandoned or closed. Because roadside parks, turnouts, and scenic overlooks as a category are at the risk of becoming obsolete they deserve protection.
Roadside parks, turnouts, and scenic overlooks are, by definition, located adjacent to a state highway and provide at the minimum an automobile pull-off and may provide places to park, picnic or enjoy the surrounding landscape. Character defining features may include: natural or formal plantings, picnic tables, trash receptacles, signage, and areas to park. Overlooks provide a safe place to enjoy scenery, and are situated to frame narrow or panoramic views. Most roadside parks and turnouts are vernacular in nature, with little if nay emphasis on aesthetics, but overlooks often incorporate a greater attention to design elements such as decorative stone work or rustic timber guard rails.
Threatened roadside parks, turnouts, and scenic overlooks exist all across Missouri. An example is Oak Grove roadside park near Leasburg, Missouri in Crawford County (located on Highway 66, west of Highway H). It was recently closed by Missouri Department of Transportation; its signs and tables have been removed, the circular dive has been blocked and it is overgrown with weeds. There are no plans to reopen the park.
A similar situation exists at the roadside park on the north side of Highway 66 near Albatross in Lawrence County. Road improvements have cut if off from the highway preventing its use and making it appear “stranded” with no relationship to the highway and its original context.