County holds public hearing to gather input on road abandonment in Huntington
|Huntington resident Bob Mills looks over the map with the road which is being considered for closure.|
Emery County Commissioner Ira Hatch began the meeting with the explanation that it was a continuation of the commission meeting held earlier in the day. When the public hearing was opened, Commissioner Hatch expressed his gratitude to Huntington City for the use of the facility and their hospitality.
"We felt it best to hold this public hearing in Huntington because the road that has been proposed to be closed is just outside of Huntington's city limits, and this decision affects the residents of Huntington more than others," said Commissioner Hatch. "We received a petition to vacate this road, Emery County road number 321, several months ago. This road is also known as the West Huntington Road, the Southwest Cove Road, or the West Huntington Lake Road. We are here to receive your comments concerning this proposal. There are three options available for vacating a road. The first is to vacate the road completely, the second is to vacate with stipulations, such as seasonal or time closures, and the last is to vacate with obliteration of the road," said Hatch.
Emery County Public Lands Director Ray Petersen displayed an aerial photo of the area. He pointed out the portion of county road being considered for closure. This portion of county road is surrounded by private property and the property owners have petitioned the county to vacate this road. Their reasons for asking for this closure are due to many incidents of vandalism, theft, and destruction happening on their property.
"We have many vintage cars stored on this portion of our property and our hopes were to restore them. Most of the windshields, and other glass, have been broken out along with many parts being stolen from the cars. We were very concerned about the vandalism and we installed a gate in an attempt to keep them out. Someone came along and cut the fence wires and continued to steal parts and destroy the cars. There are also groups having beer parties in the area and they leave junk and garbage behind. We have also heard guns being fired there. We don't want to keep fishermen out, we don't want to close it to those who use the road as an access to Huntington Lake, we just want the vandalism and destruction stopped. We will work with those fishermen who want to come through, just come and talk to us," said one property owner, Bob Mills.
Cody Patton, assistant manager of Millsite State Park said, "We recognize the problems that are occurring, but the vast majority of the users behave properly. This road provides access to a good resource and we do not want to see this road vacated. We would be willing to increase patrol in the area and to assist with litter collection to make this work. This area is the only access to Huntington Lake for children who come to swim. I don't want to see those children shut out and turn to the use of SR-10 for access to Huntington Lake."
Jay Mark Humphrey, from Emery Water Conservancy District was next to comment. "The district manages this area for the Bureau of Reclamation." He read a statute concerning the district's management responsibilities. According to the resource management plan for Huntington North Reservoir, instituted in December of 2004, it states, "Alternative B: Resource Conservation Emphasis: Existing vehicular access to the Southwest Cove area would be maintained as presently provided until such time as liability, maintenance, safety, and/or security concerns require closure." "The reservoir was built to store water, and we must remember that recreation comes second to that water storage. We will help in any way we can," said Humphrey.
Cathy Cowley, Huntington City council person, said, "My sons have used this road as access to Huntington Lake. As a scout leader I have used the road in scout activities. This access is important to the children of Huntington, and I do not want to see those children out on SR-10 to get to the lake. While I understand the property owners want the vandalism and destruction of their personal property to stop, I suggest closing the road for nighttime hours only, then open it in the day for those who fish and ride their bikes there."
Mike McCandless was next to speak. "I echo Cathy's concerns about putting small children on the main road to gain access to Huntington Lake. I have many family members who also use this area as an access. I have seen many times, especially on weekends when there are numerous vehicles in there. Many times, one person with a boat will go into the state park to launch and meet family and friends who have accessed the lake from this area. If a parking lot, with a gate and walk-in fence is decided on, the parking area will need to be quite large.
"Another concern I have is the distance that will be required for ice fishermen to transport their gear during the winter if this road is closed. Those fisherman have a lot of gear and the extra distance required will be upwards of a half mile. I am not sure the removal of this access road will stop the vandalism problem. Closing this road may set a bad precedent, people in other areas have the same problems and all the roads cannot be closed. Historical use of this area should be taken into consideration also," said McCandless.
Following the formal comments, many suggestions were given. Some of the comments were: to install a fence and locking gate around the private property; to install a fence with a walk-through gate for foot traffic to access the lake; or to build a new road or foot path around the private property. All concerned parties in the discussion were eager to reach a solution to this problem.
"We have many options to consider and many agencies and property owners to consult. No matter what action is taken in the end, everyone concerned will not be 100 percent satisfied. There will be no answer tonight, this decision will come down the road following more discussions. We need to work out a feasible, economical solution to this problem. The public must realize their responsibility in this situation. One person can ruin a situation for everyone," said Commissioner Hatch.
Mac Mills expressed his appreciation to the Sheriff's Office and the deputies for increased patrols in the area.
Commissioner Gary Kofford explained that Lamar Guymon, Emery County Sheriff, is out of town, and has expressed his desire to see a solution without closing the road.