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County ready to vacate ownership of some back country 'roads'

Sun Advocate associate editor

On the maps and in the records, they show up as county roads. On the ground, they show up as ruts in the dirt, sometimes eroded to the point where they are nothing but gullies.

Nevertheless, the paper trail these old tracks make in the public records poses some ownership issues for the owners of private property they cross, issues that could affect future sales or purchases. So Carbon County, in a rare move, wants to vacate its interest in them.

The roads in question are in the Whitmore Park area on the east side of the county, principally on the Iriart property, according to county public lands director Rex Sacco. "They don't lead to any public land and the public can't drive on them anyway, so there's no point in keeping them," he explained.

By vacating its interest and officially transferring ownership of the roads, the county will "remove the cloud" over the title to the land, Sacco said.

Meanwhile, Carbon County gets something out of this. Namely, it gets clear title to the "real" roads of Whitmore Park and Nine Mile Canyon. Sacco said Iriart will deed over to the county a 66'foot right'of'way on the Whitmore Park road and a 100'foot right'of'way on Nine Mile for the sections of road that cross the property.

This means that the county will eventually be able to install cattle guards to replace the gates now in place. No longer will drivers have to get out of their vehicles, open the gate, drive through, get out and close the gate. Whatever gates remain will be on private roads.

The commission has scheduled a public hearing on the measure for July 6 at 5 p.m. in the Courthouse.

Sacco, who is something of a historian, said that the roads crossing Emma Park, Nine Mile and Whitmore Park in many cases predate the roads through Price and Willow Creek Canyons. In horse'and'wagon days, it was easier to travel across the relatively flat land. There was also plenty of grazing out there for cattle being driven, as well.

Historically, the county has been tenacious in holding onto its roads and keeping them open for the public. About 10 years ago, when a private landholder in Spring Canyon outside Helper locked a gate on the road leading to county property at Mutual and public lands beyond, the county sent out a crew with cutting torches to keep the road open.

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