Big win in Missouri! The residents of Christian County, Missouri, and users of the Lindenlure access on the Finley River are celebrating their restored access that was blocked off by adjacent landowners and enforced by the county.
As written about in January, David Romano of the River Access Coalition and two others with land bordering the public access sued the county and the Adam’s family for illegally blocking the road and access to the river. On Aug. 26, 2021, the Hon. Laura Johnson, circuit court judge for Christian County, ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, stating, “The Court finds that Canyon Road is a public road pursuant to common law dedication. … Alternatively, the Court finds that the public has a prescriptive easement to cross the Access Area to reach the Finley River.”
Defending access to public lands is never an easy thing to do. Getting a win that restores access is usually even harder to accomplish. It takes an army to write letters, pressure elected officials and land management agencies, and sometimes requires litigation to ensure our access rights are upheld.
Generations of families have used the Lindenlure access to enjoy the Finley River – swimming, fishing and boating are popular activities throughout the summer months. Since it was blocked in March 2020, the community effort to restore access was both outstanding and effective.
“We are thrilled with this ruling – we knew the road and river access were public all along. Now we will once again get to see kids playing in the water there, young and old people fishing and everyone enjoying the river like they have for the past 100 years,” Romano said.
Romano added that there are many people to thank, including the Missouri chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, whose members provided advice, fundraising and networking.
The chapter wrote letters to the local papers and the county commission in support of public access. They also hosted a raffle in 2021 that raised over $2,000 to contribute to the legal efforts.
“We need to be vigilant, especially here in Missouri. We have people that are looking to close access to our rivers…this win is a huge deal, a great effort by everyone involved and needs to be celebrated. BHA is about securing our access to public lands and making sure they stay that way,” chapter leader Caleb Condit said.
Now that access has been restored, Romano and the Missouri chapter want to echo a very important message.
“Now that we’ve established the public’s right to access the Finley River at Lindenlure, we need everyone to treat the right as a privilege. That means picking up after yourselves, and others if necessary. It means no trespassing above the high-water mark, and it means behaving well in general over there,” Romano said.
Bad behaviors - trespassing and litter especially - are the top reasons private landowners try to close access to the public. Respect of public and private lands is important to maintaining access, and making them “better than you left them” should always be followed. The River Access Coalition will have volunteers at Lindenlure to help keep it clean, and the Missouri chapter will also be doing a cleanup as part of BHA’s Public Land Pack-Out during Public Lands Month. If you are in Missouri and would like to participate, please reach out to the chapter via email.