Part of Johnson's Shut-Ins park to open Monday

Friday, June 29, 2007 | 9:34 p.m. CDT; updated 4:04 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A popular state park that was wiped out when a mountaintop reservoir collapsed plans to partially reopen for two months.

Part of Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park in southeast Missouri will be open starting Monday and will stay open through Sept. 3, state officials said Friday. Visitors can swim in the shut-ins area of the park, have a picnic nearby and visit the park store. But the rest of the park is considered a construction site and remains closed. Camping also will not be allowed.

About two months ago, state officials said the park would not open this summer because of damage from the Taum Sauk reservoir collapse.

Johnson's Shut-Ins was devastated in December 2005, when Ameren Corp.'s reservoir failed and sent more than 1 billion gallons of water rushing through the area. The breach injured a family of five and buried much of the park under 5 feet of soil.

The park — and the tourists it draws — is a vital part of the region's economy. State officials said it was important to get at least part of the park open by the Fourth of July holiday.

The park was partially opened last year while crews cleaned up a nearby river and did environmental cleanup. The park has not been closed an entire summer since opening in 1955, the Department of Natural Resources said.

The department said it hopes the entire park can be open to visitors again in 2008.

The department approved Ameren's plan to repair the park in February. The plan would clean up the shut-ins, rebuild sewer lines for public bathrooms and replace a campground at the park.

Earlier this month, the department said it and the attorney general's office were close to offering Ameren a unified settlement deal outlining how the utility can pay for damages associated with the collapse.

Ameren already agreed to pay $15 million in fines to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which regulated operations at the Taum Sauk reservoir. That's the largest fine in FERC history.

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