County Commissioners Vote 5-0 to Vacate County Road 124 in Eden

County Commissioners Vote 5-0 to Vacate County Road 124 in Eden

Shannon Julian speaks in favor of vacating County Road 124 during the Sweetwater County commissioner meeting Tuesday morning. Zoom photo

SWEETWATER COUNTY — The Sweetwater County commissioners voted unanimously to vacate County Road 124 Eden-East 2nd North during their meeting Tuesday morning.

The county received 14 letters in support of vacating the road, and three opposing it. Public Works Director Gene Legerski said the road hasn’t been used since 1994 and to use it, a new road would have to be constructed for around $1 million. There would then be an annual cost for the county to maintain and plow the road.

One of the primary concerns with vacating the road was limiting or cutting off public access to public land, however, Legerski assured the commissioners that there are several two-track roads, as well as the railroad grade, that people can use to access those lands in that area of Farson-Eden.

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“My preferred option would be to either build the road, or vacate the road, and make sure it’s a clear cut thing. It just clears up things in the future. If this would have been acted on correctly in 1994, we wouldn’t be sitting here. It’s caused a lot of confusion, a lot of money spent, a lot of heartache for a lot of the landowners up there, and a lot of contention for neighbors,” Legerski said.

He further added in response to commissioner questions about access to lands that the county was given a right-of-way on the McMurray land back in the 1950s. Therefore, if the McMurray’s sell the land, or the Bureau of Land Management changes public access in the area, Legerski said the county will continue to have that right-of-way that ensures access.

“The county has a right-of-way through the McMurry land and onto the BOR (Bureau of Reclamation land). That was given to us in the 50s,” he said. “I don’t want to have that misconception out there that we don’t have access, we do.”

With Legerski’s assuredness that county residents will still be able to access public lands in the area of County Road 124, the commissioners said that this tough decision does become easier.

For and Against Vacating the Road

Robert Chesnovar, son-in-law of Bob McMurray of the McMurray Ranch, spoke during the meeting in favor of vacating the road. He also assured the commissioners that there will still be public access to public lands with or without the road. He also noted that prior to when the public notices of intent to vacate the road were posted by the county, they submitted a petition with 42 names on it in favor of abandoning the road.

“That’s far above what the statute required,” Chesnovar said. He said he hoped that the commissioners would take this, along with the 14-3 letters in support of vacating the road, into consideration in their decision.

Of those who objected to the vacation were Donald and Vicki Miller of the Miller Land Company. They said in their objection letter that if the road was vacated, it would lock the approximate seven acres of land on the north end of their property and diminish the entire value of their approximate 238-acre agricultural property in Eden. They stated further in their letter that the McMurray Ranch constructed a center pivot irrigation system over the top of County Road 124 back in 1994.

“The result for them was a productive and attractive center pivot irrigation system, and obviously the property value increased as a result of this decision. We understand the reason why McMurray Ranch, LLC made this decision. I would think all parties can all agree that it monetarily increased the value of their property,” the letter stated.

The letter explained that at the time, the Miller Land company decided not to speak up about putting the pivot over the road for various reasons. However, regarding the current issue, they said they hoped the commissioners would consider that since County Road 124 has not been used since 1994, many hunters and recreational users have utilized the canal two-track to access the BLM land east of the Miller Land Company property. They said that at any point, the Miller Land Company or the McMurray Ranch could cut off this access.

However, Legerski said that since the county does own a right-of-way on the McMurray land, this will not be an issue. Additionally, he said there are other access points to this land as well.

This aerial photograph shows the center pivot on the McMurray Ranch and where County Road 124 sits within that land. Photo courtesy of Sweetwater County via Western-EGI viewer’s report

In addressing the issue of the center pivot, Shannon Julian, Bob McMurray’s daughter, said her grandparents were upstanding people and had to have made a careful decision about where they placed the center pivot.

“There were several things that happened to get this pivot in the place it’s in. Sorry it’s caused a lot of trouble…but it is a very big hardship on us to have to move that pivot,” she said.

According to the viewer’s report by Western-EGI, if a new road was constructed, a large portion of irrigated land would be removed, and the construction would require that the pivot for the McMurry ranch be altered. Approximately 118.5 acres is currently irrigated by the center pivot. If stops were put in on the pivot, then only 62% (73.85 acres) of the currently irrigated property would be irrigated. If the center pivot was moved to the southern boundary of CR-124 then only 51% (60.45 acres) of the currently irrigated property would be irrigated.

Due to there still being access to public lands, the commissioners all voted in favor of vacating County Road 124. Chairman West acknowledged that no matter their decision, somebody would be left unhappy. However, the commissioners decided to follow the public opinion and the information presented by the viewer’s report and Legerski.

To see the full viewer’s report, click here. To read the letters in support and in opposition to vacating the road, click here.