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Trailhead

| May 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Cabinet Back County Horsemen, one of the more reasonable recreation groups you're likely to run into anywhere, tell me they are not in favor of closing off Granite Creek Road or the existing access to the Granite Lake Trailhead, one of the most popular trailheads into the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.

The horse group, which is annually involved in trail and trailhead improvements, is presently making improvements to the Granite Lake Trailhead with funds from the Lincoln County Resource Advisory Council.

Danny Lewis, president of CBCH, said the group does not endorse development plans or "no plans" for the old Lukens Hazel Mine property purchased by Charlie Stevens of Fort Worth, Texas, and his father, John Stevens of Kansas. Lewis said the group would like to remain neutral on that issue but it does not favor closing the road for a Forest Service alternative approaching the trailhead from the south.

"If it benefits the county, I'm for it," Lewis said.

I think that that's a position everybody has who has lived for any length of time.

The Stevenses said they have no plans for their 650 acres acquired from Plum Creek. But they are exploring the possibility of asking the county to abandon the road through their propoerty that accesses the trailhead.

That's not likely to happen without a suitable alternative, which like the existing road is open in perpetuity.

As we all know, Forest Service roads come with no assurances. There are too many issues involved and too many political involvements that may interject themselves at any time. First, the area is within grizzly habitat. That comes with a host of problems, including NEPA (the National Environment Protection Act), road densities for both big game habitat and grizzly bears, and lest we forget, bull trout.

The road density issue could mean that other open roads in the Snow Creek area known as Deep Creek-Granite might have to be closed to build a new access into the Granite Lake Trailhead. Road closings for any reasons are never popular.

While the whole issue might be moot — the county commissioners are presently favorable to closing abandoning the county road — the Granite Lake Trailhead might have to be moved or end up being about a mile longer farther from Granite Lake. That 6-mile hike would be 7 miles and less likely to be done in one day for family outings. Neither 12 miles roundtrip nor 14 miles roundtrip are easy day hikes for families.

At this point, the Forest Service has no obligation to provide access since the county road provides better access to the property than a lot of property owners in the county already enjoy.

If the Stevens' motivation to close the road is to protect their property from trespassers lighting fires, many of us can relate to that problem. There is little regard locally for private property. Everyone seems to extoll the right to own land but few respect the ownership by other people.

As I mentioned last week, these are growth issues and we're only beginning to scratch the surface. We will see more, all over the county. That's not to say growth is bad, but it will change things here culturally, economically and socially if we don't maintain some controls without impeding the benefits of growth.

The county planning board is working toward those very things. It won't be easy, and their work won't be without controversy. But it is necessary if we're going to separate ourselves from the other places in this region where growth that is uncontrolled is driving people away.

Bad development and bad growth policies could lower propoerty values having a negative financial impact on the county taxpayers and each land owner. — Roger Morris