The property owners who claim that part of French Creek Road is private have appealed a judge’s ruling that the road is a public county road.
Gamble Land and Timber and Cascade Holdings Group filed the appeal in the Washington Court of Appeals on Dec. 30. The appeal asks the court to review Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Henry Rawson’s granting of summary judgment to Okanogan County and the Okanogan Open Roads Coalition. Rawson’s granting of summary judgment means he determined there are no facts in dispute as to whether the 3-mile stretch of French Creek Road is public or private.
Because the judge’s order was concise and had few details, it’s not clear what exactly is being appealed, open roads coalition attorney Natalie Kuehler said by email. It’s also not known yet what parts of the extensive record the plaintiffs will certify for review by the appellate court, she said.
The county will have to wait to see what the plaintiffs argue in their appeal, Okanogan County Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Gecas said by email.
Gamble Land and Cascade Holdings Group sued the county in 2017 to quiet the title to the 3-mile section of road, which they claim is a private-access road to their adjacent property. The quiet-title process is used to settle ownership issues.
The open roads coalition, a citizens’ group that supports public access to back roads, joined the case after Okanogan County decided not to defend the public status of the road and said it would abide by the court’s decision. In 2019, after new documents — including 19th-century maps and surveys — came to light, the county took an active role in the case, arguing that the road is public and that gates erected by private-property owners should be unlocked or removed.
Okanogan County and the coalition argued that French Creek Road had been established, surveyed and built in 1889, before Washington became a state.
Gamble and Cascade Holdings contend that French Creek Road was never properly created as a county road.
While Rawson granted summary judgment to the county and the coalition, he didn’t address specific points in their arguments regarding the timeliness of the plaintiffs’ lawsuit and issues of jurisdiction.
The coalition and Okanogan County have until Jan. 17 to decide whether to file a cross-appeal, Kuehler said.