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ST. LOUIS NEWS TODAY -

AAA chart for travel Christmas Holiday 2016
Low gas prices and increased consumer optimism will prompt more than 103 million Americans to set out on road trips, take to the skies, or board trains, buses and cruise ships to celebrate the holidays, according to AAA.
Holiday Travel to Reach the Highest Level on Record
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), December 18, 2016 - More than 103 million Americans - the most on record - are expected to travel for the year-end holidays, according to AAA.

This represents a 1.5 percent increase, or 1.5 million more people traveling, compared with last year. This comes despite one fewer travel day this holiday season. The year-end holiday travel period is defined as Friday, December 23 to Monday, January 2, 2017.

The increase in holiday travel this year is being driven by additional consumer spending, a result of improvements in the labor market and rising wages. Additionally, low gas prices and increased consumer optimism will prompt more Americans than ever to set out on road trips, take to the skies, or board trains, buses and cruise ships to celebrate the holidays.

"'Tis the season for holiday travel, and this year more Americans will travel to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year than ever before," said AAA President and CEO Marshall Doney. "Rising incomes and continued low gas prices should make for a joyous holiday travel season."

Most travelers will drive this holiday season The vast majority of travelers - 93.6 million people - will take a holiday road trip, an increase of 1.5 percent over last year. Air travel is expected to increase by 2.5 percent, with more than 6 million Americans flying to their holiday destinations. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will decrease slightly, to 3.5 million travelers.

New Year's gas prices second-cheapest in nearly a decade AAA estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year. Today's national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $2.23, 23 cents more than the average price on New Year's Day 2016 ($2.00). Most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest New Year's Day gas prices since 2009, when the national average was $1.62.

Holiday airfares, hotel rates and car rental prices mixed According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, holiday airfares are projected to average $204 for a roundtrip flight along the top 40 domestic routes. Rates for AAA Two and Three Diamond Rated lodgings are expected to increase 7 percent, with travelers spending an average of $128 and $160 per night, respectively. Daily car rental rates will average $66, slightly lower than last year's holiday travel season.

Warm-weather destinations top the list of most popular holiday destinations With the exception of New York City - a popular holiday destination - warm-weather locales in Nevada, Florida and California top the list of most popular destinations for this holiday season, based on AAA.com bookings.


New Missouri State Parks
Rendering courtesy Misssouri State Parks
Missouri Adds Three New State Parks in Southern Region
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), December 11, 2016 - Missourians are gaining three new state parks in southern Missouri that will have some of the state's most distinctive natural landscapes and features on their more than 8,000 acres.

The addition of Eleven Point State Park in Oregon County, Bryant Creek State Park in Douglas County and Ozark Mountain State Park in Taney County will bring the total number of state parks in Missouri to 91.

In a release, Governor Jay Nixon said, "These new state parks ensure that we can protect and preserve these valuable natural landscapes for generations to come," Gov. Nixon said. "At a time when other states are closing or even selling state parks or charging day use fees, we are expanding our system of state parks to offer more opportunities for Missourians to experience the outdoors, at no admission cost."

The new parks include:

Ozark Mountain State Park, with 1,011 acres, features an open, grassy, flower-filled landscape of ridges and hills, known locally as knobs. The property is located in Taney County, northwest of Branson along Highway 465.

Bryant Creek State Park, with 2,917 acres, consists of thick oak and pine forests and nearly two miles of river hills and bluffs along Bryant Creek. The property is located in Douglas County, near the Ozark County line approximately 22 miles southeast of Ava.

Eleven Point State Park, with 4,167 acres, includes six miles of direct river frontage on the Eleven Point River, a nationally protected river corridor. The property is located in Oregon County approximately 45 miles east of West Plains, near Alton.

"These new parks were acquired to fill natural history gaps that were not previously represented in the state park system," said Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks. "For more than 20 years, the park system has been looking to add properties with these unique natural features for the public to enjoy."

The new park lands were selected based on goals identified in the 1992 Missouri State Park and Historic Site System Expansion Plan, which was developed following a nearly five-year process of public meetings, research and staff input. In 2004, Missouri State Parks also completedMissing Masterpieces: A Survey About Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites. The extensive survey gathered public input regarding the standards the division uses to evaluate potential new areas for their worthiness to become new Missouri state parks.

Plans for development of the properties and future use are in the preliminary stages. Early development will focus on natural resource stewardship. The park system will hold a series of events to allow members of the public to see the properties and provide feedback on park planning. The first of these events will be guided hikes on the property.

They will take place at:

Ozark Mountain State Park in Taney County from 2-4 p.m. on Jan. 6.
Eleven Point State Park in Oregon County from 1-4 p.m. on Jan. 7.
Bryant Creek State Park in Douglas County from noon-2 p.m. on Jan. 8.

For information on where these hikes will begin, contact Missouri State Parks at (573) 751-0761 or moparks@dnr.mo.gov. For those who cannot attend the hikes, a presentation and opportunity to provide feedback will also be available online at mostateparks.com beginning on Jan 6.

The state park system purchased the Eleven Point State Park for $8 million, Bryant Creek State Park for $4 million and Ozark Mountain State Park for $2.8 million. Money for the purchases came from settlements reached with mining companies that had operated in the state. The purchase of Ozark Mountain State Park and Bryant Creek State Park also included some state park funds designated for land acquisitions.


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