Volume 104, Number 49 - December 6, 2007
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Hoback compromise ready for winter
The Hoback Ranches Service and Improvement District (HRSID) board held a public hearing on Sunday at the Bondurant Church to discuss amendments for the district’s recently created Winter Access Plan.
The two board members present at the meeting assured that the small changes over possible road closures would help prevent obstacles to the compromise over long-disputed winter plowing in Hoback Ranches, a remote subdivision just south of Bondurant.
“This will be general enough to hold us for a few years while we find what’s really going to work,” said Barbara Burris, HRSID board director.
If other problems with the access plan arise, she added, the district can amend it again down the road.
The Winter Access Plan, created at a special HRSID meeting on Sept. 29, prescribes plowing only a few of the 26 miles of roads in the subdivision. The plowed roads will serve as winter access roads to two parking lots, where drivers can leave their vehicles, hop on their snowmobiles and zip the rest of the way home.
For the past 20 years, residents have left their cars by the side of the highway and boarded their snow machines there, leaving a long line of cars — there were about 60 last winter — along an icy bend in the highway that endangered other drivers. A handful of cars had been vandalized in recent years, confirming that a more regulated parking situation was required.
The plan also calls for a recently organized Winter Committee, chaired by HRSID board member Richard Thomas and comprised of six other locals. The committee will oversee snow removal and rate road conditions via a winter access matrix, by which they’ll determine whether roads should be closed altogether to vehicular traffic.
According to the amendment that the board passed on Sunday, the board will be able to re-open the roads if they deem that driving conditions are safe again, instead of closing the roads for the entire season once inclement weather sets in, as stated originally in the plan.
Thomas will make recommendations on road closure for the HRSID board to decide with a vote, so the decision won’t rest in one person’s hands.
“We just want (the roads) to be safe,” Thomas said, adding that he would meet with the Winter Committee soon to discuss how members will analyze driving conditions. “The last thing we want is anybody getting hurt.”
About a dozen people turned out for the meeting, and none opposed the amendments, which also included a few phrase changes. “I just want to thank the board for bringing the access plan this far,” one woman said. “It was a lot of hard work, I know.” The Winter Access Plan marks a conclusion to years of bickering between residents over whether to plow the long, winding subdivision roads.
Some locals argued that plowing would create the hazard of cars and snowmobiles colliding on the road, but the access plan requires safety signs warning of narrow and icy streets that will hopefully prevent problems.
Since the September meeting when the board created the plan, Burris said at Sunday’s meeting, the HRSID board has spoken with Pinedale attorney Doug Mason about circumventing laws forbidding plowing in the district that were created in the early ‘90s.
“We want to rewrite the laws according to this Winter Access Plan, not just say ‘woo! No more rules, everybody plow!’” Boyce said, alluding to snow plow mavericks who cleared one-way accesses to their homes in the ‘90s and rendered need for the anti-plowing laws in the first place.
Mason will soon draft a formal request to the county commissioners and the county clerk about changing the district’s restrictions to fit the access plan, Boyce said. She didn’t know yet if the matter would have to be taken to the state government level, but the board is prepared to do whatever necessary. Like last year, locals Geoff Canfield, Ed Ruosch and Woody Caldwell will plow the roads on a volunteer basis, with money for fuel donated by subdivision residents.
If an emergency arises, the Bridger-Teton National Forest Service has given the district permission to create a temporary parking lot inside the North entrance of Hoback Ranches.
Thomas is relieved to finally organize a system that most locals can agree on, and said the board will watch carefully to ensure road clearings operate smoothly.
“This is the first year we’ve attempted to keep the roads clear — I’m very excited about that,” he said. “If we could ever get county funding to help us out, it would be all the better, but at this point, we’re just getting started. I think this is a challenge we’re willing to meet.”
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