Attorney General Eric Schmitt deserves the thanks of Missourians who want a champion for Eleven Point State Park in Oregon County.
Recently, a judge there ruled that Missouri must sell 625 acres of the nearly 4,200-acre park along the Eleven Point River. The land was acquired several years ago using mining settlement money but the park has never opened.
A lawsuit filed in 2017 argued that 625 acres of the land in the park are within a federal easement along the river, which restricted use only for agriculture. The state argued the public park did not conflict with the federal easement, which seems to us just common sense.
The Eleven Point is one of the nation’s original Wild and Scenic Rivers, a designation created in 1968 to protect some of the nation’s best surviving rivers from dams, channelization and other alterations and intrusions. That is why the easement exists — to protect the river and riparian corridor. A state park is compatible with that vision, in that it would continue to protect the land and river and allow for public use. In fact, the state park expands protections for other land within the watershed and further enhances the reason for the easement in the first place.
We think the local judge erred, and Schmitt last week filed a notice of appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals.
He laid out a number of concerns, including:
• Whether the trial court violated the separation of powers principle by ordering the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to divest itself of the 625 acres.
• Whether the trial court erred in its application of the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and its interpretation of the easement to the facts of the case.
• Whether the court erred in granting plaintiffs standing.
Eleven Point State Park is a great opportunity for Missouri, too great an opportunity to let slip away.
We are grateful that Schmitt has indicated he will take up the fight on behalf of Eleven Point State Park.