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Dispute over Long Street in Green River

By Patsy Stoddard

The main topic of discussion at the Oct. 17 commission meeting was Long Street in Green River. The item was on the agenda at the request of the Holyoaks, property owners.
The discussion was regarding the county abandoning Long Street. This was not a public hearing, however, the Commissioners accepted public comments.
Commissioner Lynn Sitterud said there hasn’t been a public hearing on the abandoning of Long Street. There has never been a meeting where the commission voted to abandon the road. The commission’s position is this is a public road.
Steve Styler is the lawyer representing the Holyoaks and he has been for several years. Long Street goes through the Holyoak property. From time to time, people think they can drive through the Holyoak property to access the BLM land. You can’t access the BLM land without passing through the Holyoak property. He said from 1984-1992 the road wasn’t maintained. He had copies of letters sent to the county asking for the road to be fixed. He said at that time county road department head Rex Funk said that wasn’t a county road. It was the county’s stance at that time according to Rex Funk that low volume, limited use roads would be abandoned, this includes private lanes and roads that don’t serve the general public.
The BLM land abutting the Holyoak property is part of a wilderness study area and has been for the past several years. Styler said people think they can travel across the Holyoak property and then hike onto the BLM. He said there are other access points to the BLM land that people should be using and not trespassing on the private property. Styler said they would like to see the access issue resolved and they don’t want to go to court. He said they have a GRAMMA request asking when the road became a county road, but there wasn’t documentation that they could obtain, he said the road began appearing on maps, but they don’t know how it became a county road. He contends the road is not a public road.
David Blackwell lawyer for other landowners said the road appears on maps and the county made a bus turnaround on the road in the 1980s. He said roads become county roads through continuous use for 10 years or more. UDOT will recognize a road and the county will receive funds to help maintain the road. There have been thousands of miles of roads acquired in this manner and many of these roads pass through private property. Blackwell said there are people who purchased land in the area who understood they would have access to what they thought was a county road. According to the planning and zoning policy of Emery County lot owners require access to a county road. Even if a road is not bladed and maintained doesn’t mean the road has been abandoned. UDOT has the road on their 1999 map which shows the bus turnaround. “To say it’s not a county road defies history,” said Blackwell. He contended it would not be fair to the other land owners in the area to abandon the road. The earliest map Blackwell could find showing the road was a UDOT 1983 map. Connie Jensen, county recorder said the road is a recorded road for Emery County.
At this time several people from Green River spoke about their history with the road and surrounding BLM ground.
June Adams said when she purchased her property in 1978 they were told it was a county road, she said they wouldn’t have purchased the property if it didn’t have access to the county road.
In 2005, the Holyoaks purchased their property and Styler said the road didn’t show up in a title search. June said she was told the county doesn’t give easements for the use of their roads, the roads are available for public use.
The Ekkers who had the property before farmed there and didn’t stop any access to the property. The Green River people said they had used the road for years and went camping and fishing on the BLM property and there are also historic sites in the area including cabins and rock art.
Greg Vetere, property owner said when they purchased property from June Adams they were assured it was a county road, they wouldn’t have purchased the property if it wasn’t a county road. He said people shouldn’t be shut off of the property. They’ve been using the road all their lives.
Kathy Ryan said she moved to Green River in 1979 and has spent much time in that area looking at the rock art and wants to be able to show it to others, but access is denied and the other trail which leads there is impassable and hard to find. “People need access,” said Ryan. Ryan had statements from other Green River people outlining their historic use of the road.
Ryan said she can understand the Holyoaks not wanting traffic right past their front door. “But, give us another route,” said Ryan. The property owners in the area said knowing the county road was there was an important part of why they purchased property.
The Holyoaks had asked to be included on the commission agenda to discuss the issue of the road.
Jaydon Mead, the BLM realty specialist said when the BLM land became part of the WSA, the road was not cherry stemmed or noted. So there is only walk in, or horse traffic access allowed in the WSA.
Holyoak said the trespassers on his property have knocked down sprinklers, gone into his orchards and one lady even threatened to sue him. He would sell the property if he could since he didn’t know it was a county road when he bought it.
Commissioner Sitterud said there would be no action or decisions made on what to do at this time. In the future they may hold a public hearing in Green River. Emery County will not move for abandonment of the road.

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