Some residents oppose closure in Texas/ French creek area
By Marcy Stamper
The Okanogan County commissioners vacated three roads that have no trace on the ground, but want more information about eight other roads before they decide whether they are part of the county road system.
After a three-hour public hearing on Monday (Jan. 23) on 11 roads being considered for vacation, the commissioners asked Public Works staff to do further research about the roads, according to Verlene Hughes, senior engineer tech with the Okanogan County Department of Public Works.
The process is part of the county’s attempts to reconcile decades-old maps and road logs with actual roads on the ground, according to County Engineer Josh Thomson.
Of the three roads that were vacated — a total of about 6.5 miles — two are in the Methow Valley and one is near Brewster.
Thomson said he could find no evidence that County Road #8, near Twin Lakes Road, exists. County Road #25 was described as being in the Goat Peak drainage, but there are no documents showing the county ever built the road, which would have served the same purpose as the U.S. Forest Service road that goes to the Goat Peak lookout, said Thomson.
County Road #103 was described as being near Indian Dan Canyon Road and Paradise Hill, near Brewster. The county’s 1955 map showed a loop and a short-cut, but today the loop is used as a driveway for a house, said Thomson.
No members of the public commented on these three roads and the commissioners agreed the roads are not useful to the county road system and vacated them.
As Thomson predicted, the most contentious of the 11 roads under consideration for closure was a road that connects to the Texas Creek/French Creek Road. It is on a segment behind a gate and is not currently accessible to the public.
The county received 10 letters opposing vacation of this road, but the adjacent property owners and Forest Service did not object to closing the road to the public, said Hughes. Four people who spoke at the hearing opposed closing it.
It appears the road — or some road in that vicinity — has been in existence since at least the 1930s, said Thomson.
Thomson explained his efforts to match up the description of the road on the 1955 log with the road he could find on the ground today. The log describes a series of 90- and 180-degree turns at various intervals. Much of the existing road tracks closely with the old description, but other segments do not, and some discrepancies could not be explained, he said. Parts of the road are overgrown with brush and not passable.
County commissioners Andy Hover and Chris Branch had questions about the history of the Texas Creek/French Creek Road and about two gates in the area and when they were installed. Branch and members of the public also questioned vacation of part of the road six years ago.
Several citizens asked why the county was in a hurry to vacate the roads, particularly during the winter, when people cannot get to the roads to understand the effects of closing them. As required by law, Hughes posted signs on both ends of the roads under consideration for vacation, but was not able to reach all of them in the snow, she said.
People also said they had trouble following the written descriptions of the roads, with language such as “running thence northerly over and across Section 16.”
The Texas and French creek area includes both state and federal land. The four people who testified at the hearing emphasized their desire to safeguard access to public lands for people who hunt, hike, ride horses and cut firewood.
Several roads on the county’s list are on the Colville Reservation and also require more research before any action, the commissioners said.
Public Works staff will have to start over and research the history of the roads and whether they are useful to the county road system, said Hughes. When they are ready, staff will post the roads in question and hold another public hearing. No date has been set, she said.
The county has been going through this process because it is required to keep an accurate inventory of all county roads, which includes determining whether the county had the right to claim them in the first place, said Thomson. The road list is used by the state to calculate the distribution of gas taxes to counties.