Friday, July 26, 2013

No one’s private Idaho

    Blaine County commissioners recently launched an effort to reclaim public property and rights of way from the incursions of private property owners.
    The commissioners believed that if they sent a polite letter asking citizens to remove private belongings and plantings from public rights of way that they would comply. The request provoked an uproar in Hulen Meadows subdivision near Ketchum.
    For decades, local government officials have been hit and miss in keeping public property from being subverted to private use. Raising the hackles of constituents was more trouble than it was worth.
    Even so, elected officials are obligated to see to it that public property remains public and to keep rights of way open.
    The entire county is rife with examples of public areas that have been converted to private uses without permission, without sale and in violation of law.
    It’s common to find streamside areas where owners of adjacent properties have cleared vegetation and extended mown lawns to the edge of waterways. It’s common to find lawn chairs and other summer accessories placed commandingly in what should be public river corridors. The installations are as good as “No Trespassing” signs in deterring the public from walking on and enjoying public property.
    In the cities, private flower gardens, trees, lawn, rocks and signs commonly block public rights of way. In the winter, these become obstacles for snowplows and leave neighborhoods with poorly plowed roads and pedestrians with nowhere to walk.
    The commissioners are right to try to reclaim public areas. Public property should be no one’s private Idaho.

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