Access to the Finley River is open at Lindenlure and will remain open, according to a ruling by an appellate court. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

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An appellate court on June 4 upheld a lower court's decision to keep access to the Finley River at Lindenlure open to the public.

The access point off of Missouri Highway 125 in Christian County had been open since the 1940s for recreation, including fishing, swimming and floating. That was until March 2020 when property owners Carla and Michael Adams of Nixa, who own land at the access point, blocked off Canyon Road.

The short, narrow road jogs off Highway 125 down to the river at a spot between Sparta and Rogersville. The Adamses put up a locked metal fence and large concrete blocks to block vehicles from accessing the river.

Highway 125 passes over the Finley River at Lindenlure in Christian County. This spot will remain accessible to the public. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

They have said they did so because it was their private property and that some of those going to the river at Lindenlure were leaving trash and using drugs.

In response, several people who for decades have accessed the Finley River at Lindenlure sued.

They created the River Access Coalition and won in Christian County circuit court in August 2021; the road was opened. But the verdict was appealed.

The Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, upheld Christian County Circuit Judge Laura Johnson. A panel of three judges made the decision. Chief Judge Jack Goodman wrote the opinion, with the two other judges concurring.

Johnson determined that Canyon Road had become a public road over decades of use with no discernible objection by nearby land owners.

The public access area extends down to the river and along an area of rough, intermittent roadway near the river for another quarter-mile, roughly.

Hauxeda columnist Steve Pokin wrote about the area in an April 17 piece.

This is the sign on the gate that once blocked access to the Finley River at Lindenlure. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

According to court documents, a grandson of a former property owner at that location testified at trial that the family did object to public use of the land on the Finley's north bank.

The current property owners argued that there was no specific action ever taken to make part of their property public property.

Judge Johnson ruled that if a road is used by the public for some some 80 years without objection, it becomes a public road.

The appellate justices wrote:

“The trial court then discussed the evidence that since at least 1944 the public consistently used Canyon Road to access the Finley River for recreation, the county maintained the road, and county law enforcement patrolled the road. Prior to the 2020 erection of the New Gate, ‘access to Canyon Road had never been restricted.' The court thus concluded, the landowners' ‘inaction in the face of such extensive public use of the road shows an intent to dedicate Canyon Road for public use.'”

The landowners also argued that prior use of the road by others was by permission. But the appellate judges noted there was “no testimony or document in the trial record granting permissive use, such as a conversation or written grant.”


Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Hauxeda. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@hauxeda.com. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin