Commissioner Jeff Burrows does not expect the upper portion of Hughes Creek Road — which happens to be private property — will draw large numbers of the public for recreation in this area. Yet he is determined to make it a public road anyway.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a real desirable spot for people,” he reportedly said to the Ravalli Republic.
So why did the commissioners use the rationale that because it provides access to public lands or waters that is not provided by other roads it must be open to the public?
It appears Commissioner Burrows has been spearheading this effort since it was brought to his attention by his neighbor, Dave Campbell. Campbell just happens to be the former West Fork District Ranger. He has fought unsuccessfully for decades to remove the gate on Hughes Creek road, and reportedly vowed when he retired that he would devote his efforts to getting that gate removed.
Dedicated public servant? Or personal vendetta against private property owners?
The county’s records show that the end of the public road was never at the top of the private road, where Ravalli County officials say it is. Prior lawsuits and prior Boards of Commissioners (BOC) have placed the location of the end of the public roadway within a quarter mile of the gate’s current location.
The current commission wants to ignore these facts so they can procedurally “take private property” without compensation. By declaring the land has been public roadway since 1900, and prior BOC decisions were wrong and therefore invalid, the county is attempting to use a state law that states, “The board may not abandon a county road or right-of-way used to provide existing legal access to public land or waters, … unless another public road or right-of-way provides substantially the same access.”
The upper portion of Hughes Creek Road has never provided “legal access” to public lands or waters. Not since 1900. Not since 1965 or 1984 or 1993. This section of the road has always been a private road.
If the Board of Commissioners succeeds in this unlawful taking of private property from us, it might be coming for you next. If you have gated property anywhere in the rural reaches of Ravalli County that could conceivably provide access to public lands and waters, watch out.