Owen Homestead

The Owen Homestead at Branson's Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area sits in ruins after the home burned Sept. 24.

    The city of Branson, unfortunately, lost one of its most interesting treasures last month.

    Very early on the morning of Sept. 24, the Owen Homestead burned. If you don’t know it, the empty home was in Branson’s Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area. It belonged to Lyle Owen, who taught at the School of  the Ozarks, and who also built the stone steps that lead down to Lake Taneycomo in the park.

    Although Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area has been part of the city for years, the 7.4-acre portion with the home was purchased by the city just five years ago.

    The park has been a favorite place of mine to hike for many years, even before the home was accessible to the public. Once the city purchased the home, it opened a new element to the park. The home shared its enclave with a barn and a coop. A stone wall surrounds the property, and a gate marks where, I suppose, one might have driven up to the property.

    The city put a picnic table near the house, and I would often see people there, just taking in the view. And it is quite a view. The home overlooks the lake, College of the Ozarks, and the Graham C. Clark Downtown Airport. I even once came across a man who was deep in prayer while facing the lake. I tried to be quiet, but he heard me and tried to be all nonchalant about what he was doing. I suppose I could have told him to continue praying and don’t pay me any mind, but I think I had already killed the moment.

    This is also the location where I watched — and took photos of — a Southwest Airlines 737 taking off from the downtown airport. The plane, you might remember, landed there by mistake in January 2014, and had to take off again from the relatively short runway with a rather large drop off at each end. A handful of other people got the same idea and we discussed, perhaps half jokingly, what to do if the airplane could not climb fast enough. Because if it didn’t, it would have been coming right at us. Fortunately, the plane lifted out of there like it was the most routine takeoff ever.

    The stone steps are something I don’t do as often as I used to. In fact, I think it’s been two or three years now. There are 315 steps down from the homestead to the lake, and 795,422 back up again. Yes, I’ve counted. Well, perhaps I estimated.

    There are also a couple of other trails in the park, ones that don’t require stair-climbing. And now that fall is here, it’s a great time to get out to the Lakeside Forest Wilderness Area and check them out.

    Now, the roof of the home is burned away, and some of the stone structure has fallen. Nature will eventually reclaim what man has built. It’s too bad the home has been damaged, perhaps beyond repair, but the park, with it’s trails is still a treasure right in the middle of Branson, and it holds several fond memories for me.

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