Metro-East News

Want to buy a state park? Missouri might have three for sale.

Ozark Mountain State Park includes nearly two miles of Roark Creek.
Ozark Mountain State Park includes nearly two miles of Roark Creek.

Missouri is considering selling off three of its state parks, including one named after the previous governor.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has announced a series of public meetings in December to discuss the future of three state park properties that were purchased under prior Gov. Jay Nixon, but have never opened. They are Ozark Mountain State Park in Taney County, Bryant Creek State Park in Douglas County, and Jay Nixon State Park in Reynolds County, according to a press release posted on the department’s website.

The meetings are apparently to “discuss the future” of the three parks, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that selling them is on the table, according to department spokesmen. The parks’ purchases were controversial, according to news reports, alleging that insufficient local input was considered.

A fourth park was Eleven Point State Park in Oregon County, which was not included because there is a pending lawsuit filed by three county residents challenging the legality of the land purchase. The department has filed a motion to dismiss the suit, after which a public comment period would take place, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Approximately 21 million people visit Missouri state parks each year, which is up 32 percent since 2006, according to the Post-Dispatch. The economic impact — as measured in 2011 — was approximately $1.02 billion in sales, $307 million in payroll and $123 million in federal, local and state taxes, compared to $778 million in expenditures.

The meetings will be held in Branson, Ava and Middlebrook, but comments also will be accepted on the Missouri State Parks website from Dec. 4-15.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald