Judge orders Missouri to sell parts of proposed state park

Associated Press
The Rolla Daily News

ALTON — The state of Missouri must sell part of the land it bought in 2016 with the intention of creating a state park along the Eleven Point River in southern Missouri, a judge ruled.

Former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon announced in 2016 that the state had purchased nearly 4,200 acres along the river to create a new Eleven Point State park, which has never opened.

A lawsuit filed in 2017 argued that 625 acres of the land in Oregon County were within a federal easement along the river, which restricted use only for agriculture.

The state argued the public park did not conflict with regulations for the federal easement, which could be modified in the future. They also argued the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit did not have standing to sue.

Oregon County Circuit Court Judge Steven Privette, in a ruling issued Tuesday, said the easement clearly meant the land could not be used as a public park. He also ruled that the couple who brought the lawsuit had standing because they were challenging the use of state funds, and owned land within the easement that was subjected to the same federal regulations.

Privette ordered the Department of Natural Resources to relinquish ownership of the acres within the federal easement. 

The property was acquired with funds from a cleanup and bankruptcy settlement involving lead mining company ASARCO. 

Some Republican Missouri House members voted to sell the land, saying money from the settlement should have been used to more directly help people impacted by the mining.

The Department of Natural Resources declined to comment on the ruling, and a spokesman for the Missouri attorney general's office said the office had not decided whether to appeal.