How Missouri's Ozark Trail got its start on the late 1970s

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Sitting in the Jefferson City office building where he worked as a recreation planner, Lafser began to pore over official maps. He quickly discerned a viable route through the Ozarks.

"It evolved over a few hours," he recalls.

In the year that followed, he pitched his idea to federal and state agencies. They liked it, and collaborated on the February 1977 proposal, an open-ended blueprint for what Lafser called "an immensely complicated coordination project."

"The trail is crystallizing," Lafser wrote in a letter at the time. "Considering how rare it is for two agencies to agree on anything, agreement of eight agencies for a cooperative effort was a landmark achievement!" Private groups such as the Sierra Club allied with the government to form a coalition: the Ozark Trail Council.