From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 7 - May 13, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Condemnation contemplated

by Cat Urbigkit

The Sublette County Commission discussed several public access/private property issues during its regular business session last Friday.

The first issue was the LaBarge Creek Road. Contrary to rumor, the road has not been closed, but some landowners have posted "no trespassing" and "no stopping on road" signs on private property the road traverses, according to Sublette County Surveyor Paul Scherbel.

Commissioner Betty Fear said she has talked with Lincoln County Commissioners about the road, which they would like to become a county road, but some private landowners have declined to grant easements for the county-road designation.

Scherbel suggested it may be more appropriate for the U.S. Forest Service to pursue the road issue, since it provides access to the national forest.

But Commission Chairman Gordon Johnston said: "But they can't make it a county road. They can't make it a road that will stay open. The only people who can do that are the board of county commissioners."

Scherbel said the county can't make it a county road unless it gets easements from the landowners, but Johnston pointed out that the county could condemn the private property to make it a county road.

Johnston said: "I'm ready to make it a county road ... I am really over this thing, like the Willow Creek Road."

Fear said she feels before taking any action, the county needs to look at it a little closer, directly contacting the landowners to see if they would be willing to grant easements.

"Let's get some feedback ourselves ... let's get some written response," Fear said.

Fear said she wants something in hand from the landowners before she decides one way or the other what to do. She said the landowners should be told that the county has been getting requests to make the road a county road, and that the landowners could grant easements without allowing the road to turn into a superhighway.

"We can leave it a trail if we want to," Fear said.

Scherbel agreed. He said, "You don't have to do anything."

Johnston compared the road to the Willow Creek Road, where the landowner who purchased the private property closed public access and the road, for which there was no legal public access, just the consent of the former landowner.

"The road isn't closed," Fear reminded the commission.

Johnston responded: "No, but it happens, as we all remember with the Willow Creek Road. I wish we had condemned that God-damned thing and I wish it was open now."

Turning to another agenda item involving similar controversies, the commission held a discussion with Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Bureau of Land Management officials about the closure of public access for launching boats at the Swain Bridge. The launch was on private property owned by Quarter Circle 5, but the new owner of the ranch, now called Seven Mile River Ranch, closed the launch to the public.

"Places that have been used traditionally for generations in Sublette County are now being shut off by wealthy absentee owners and I'm sick of it," Johnston said.

The county has applied for an access road into another site on BLM land, but the application hasn't been acted upon, the BLM explained. While not the best site for a road compared to the private property nearby, the commission agreed to pursue the public-land access site.

County Road Superintendent Richard Pearson said, "It's a terrible spot," and asked if the county could condemn the private property to gain that access site instead, or obtain a right-of-way access from the landowner. Johnston said the landowner won't grant the public access.

"I hate to lose the access, I really do," Johnston said, while agreeing to pursue the BLM application that had originally been filed by the county in 1999. "It's either use that horrible site or lose the access site."

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