Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Commissioners take on East Magic road dispute

Express Staff Writer

For the second time in less than a year, the Blaine County Commission is considering a public access issue related to the east side of Magic Reservoir, a popular recreational spot where a small enclave of privately owned cabins exists.

This time, the issue relates to the public's right to travel on the only route accessing the reservoir's east shore.

Speaking to the commission on Tuesday, Nate Norris, the owner of East Magic Resort and an owner of one of the cabins along the east side of the body of water, said two landowners in the area are partially blocking the road. Norris said the blockage has left as little as 12 feet of passage in at least one spot along the road.

The narrowness of the road makes it difficult for drivers with large recreational vehicles like motorhomes to pass through and access the reservoir, he said.

"There's a lot of people that use this road to access public land," Norris said.

He suggested that one way of remedying the situation would be for the commission to validate the road as part of the county's system of roads. He said the public has been using the rural roadway for about 60 years to access the reservoir.

Norris said the partial roadway blockage also raises the issue of whether firefighters with the Wood River Fire Protection District could adequately pass through the area on the way to a fire call.

He said he could file a lawsuit on the matter, but would prefer the county help address the issue.

"I was just hoping the county could help me with it," Norris said.

The access issue raised by Norris this week is similar to another one he raised late in 2006. Speaking before the County Commission in December of 2006, he questioned why the county wouldn't plow all or part of the 4.5-mile road leading to the remote East Magic hamlet occupied by 20 full- and part-time residents. Norris claimed he and his neighbors were being treated like second class citizens because of the lack of service.

In the end, the commissioners voted to add two rural roads, including the route highlighted by Norris, to the county's snowplowing routes. Specifically, the commission unanimously passed a resolution creating second-day plowing on the majority of East Magic and Spud Patch roads, both of which are located south of Timmerman Junction in the south county.

In regards to the existing issue, County Commissioner Sarah Michael suggested that rather than being a question of road validation, the roadway blockage may be a county enforcement issue.

"There are other ways to solve these issues," Michael said.

Lacking the presence of Blaine County Road and Bridge Superintendent Dale Shappee during the meeting, the commissioners chose to delay making a decision on the issue until they hear from him. Shappee has said he doesn't think the county should agree to the road validation request made by Norris, Blaine County administrator Mike McNees said.

"Dale doesn't think that's appropriate," McNees said.

So Shappee can be present to comment on the issue, the commissioners decided to continue the discussion until 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, Oct. 23.

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