Opponents have been targeting Eleven Point State Park almost since the day former Gov. Jay Nixon created it in 2016.
It looks like they may have won a round in their fight. But it just that — one round.
Last week, an Oregon County judge ruled that the state must sell 625 acres of the nearly 4,200-acre park along Missouri's Eleven Point River.
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. They also argued the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit did not have standing to sue.
But a judge said the easement indicated the land in the easement 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 also owned land within the easement that was subjected to the same federal regulations.
We urge the Missouri Attorney General and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to appeal.
The park is too great an opportunity for Missouri, and worth the continued fight.
Let's also be candid about a few things:
• There's a tiny minority in Missouri who don't want this or any other state park, and they tried other shabby tactics, arguing incorrectly, for example, that Nixon and the state didn't have the right to spend mining settlement money for the park. That was simply untrue. Then a handful of lawmakers tried unsuccessfully through legislation to force the state to sell the land They couldn't win there, and unable to advance their agenda in Jefferson City, they targeted the park another way. The lawsuit was just another tactic.
• If this minority had its way they would not stop at Eleven Point, but would undo a century's worth of work and investment by Missourians building one of the country's best state park systems. Their views are far outside the mainstream, as 80% of Missourians support parks and the sales tax it takes to fund them.
• 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. A state park is compatible with that vision, in that it would continue to protect the land. 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.
If Missouri does not continue to fight for its parks, it will set a dangerous precedent that will embolden the minority view and weaken the state's hand going forward as it attempts to protect other public-owned lands.
This was only round one. Let's push on with this fight. It's what residents want.