The Teton County commissioners were in agreement at their meeting last Friday that it was their duty to preserve and maintain public access on a Felt road that earlier this fall was gated and locked by a neighboring landowner.
At the beginning of 2018, the Bureau of Land Management purchased a 760-acre ranch at the confluence of the Teton River, Bitch Creek, and Badger Creek, at the northwest boundary of Teton County. W14500N, a right-of-way delineated on the county road map, accesses the newly public land. In October, however, a hunter discovered that a gate across the road had been locked. He alerted the county, the advocacy group Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and the local Idaho Fish & Game conservation officer.
Through its research, the county determined that the road is indeed a public right-of-way and cut the lock on the gate. At the Dec. 21 meeting, public works director Darryl Johnson asked the commissioners how to proceed with road maintenance. The commissioners agreed that it was important to improve the road and post signage indicating it is public.
“We need to start prioritizing basic maintenance to public access points,” Commissioner Cindy Riegel said.
Johnson said that he had talked with the BLM and that they want to build a parking lot and establish a clear endpoint on W14500N so that people don’t drive off route.
Road and bridge supervisor Clay Smith told the commissioners that the private plow company that had been maintaining the end of the road was plowing snow into a pile in front of the gate, which is illegal and will make it challenging to clear in the spring. Johnson agreed to inform the landowner who hired the company that he is required to get a permit in order to plow a county road.
The commissioners decided to draft a letter with the help of the prosecutor’s office that informs that landowner that the gate must stay open and be posted with signage to indicate public access.
In the spring, Commissioner Mark Ricks noted, it was important that the county survey and grade the road because it is currently a two-track that doesn’t entirely conform to the county’s public right-of-way.
“We’ve claimed it, now we need to go determine that it is there and somehow mark it,” Ricks said.