Lincoln County Commissioners “legalize” road that runs through North Yachats River covered bridge and beyond.
The Lincoln County Commission this week decided that despite a lot of differing opinions about the historic Lincoln County 805 Road, and the even more historic covered bridge that crosses the north fork of the Yachats River, they ruled that the road through there is a public road, at least from the bridge to a gate a short ways beyond the bridge’s north end.
Resident Katrina Wynne argued forcefully to the commissioners over the past few months that the road is a private road and that the county can’t use its special powers to settle road disputes to steal what is not the public’s property. She claimed that the bridge is on her property and she has a long written and researched history on why that is so.
County Counsel Wayne Belmont and Public Works Director Jim Buisman argued just as persuasively that the road is a public road dating back to the 1800’s and that there is a long detailed legal record, as well as anecdotal documentation, that clearly shows the road has always been a public road. Commissioner Terry Thompson asked Wynne, “Ms. Wynne, do you think a bridge built with taxpayer dollars, would dead end on private property?”
At the outset of the discussions, reaching back several months, Belmont indicated that the county’s power to declare a road “public,” despite conflicting information, rests in state law. He said conflicting opinions as to historical records, legal records, deed references, written personal accounts and the like, can never be resolved except by holding public hearings by the county commission along with evidence from both sides of the dispute. Such hearings were held and the commission ruled that the 805 road was always a public road and that it remains so today.
However this week’s ruling “legalizes” the 805 road only from the north end of the covered bridge to a gate 150 feet to the north. It is the amount of room that construction workers will need to use as they store equipment and materials that will be used in the overhaul of the bridge made possible by a federal grant. The covered bridge is on the U.S. list of historical places and it’s been over 20 years since the bridge was re-fortified.
The commission indicated that legalizing the rest of the 805 road, past Ms. Wynne’s home and up the watershed, is certainly something they could consider in the future.
Ms. Wynne and her legal advisor, who is not an attorney, made it clear that she would be considering taking the county to court if the commission declared the property running by her house as anything more than her private driveway.