Bingham County property owners upset mountain roads aren’t opened earlier
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BONE — It’s May, and that means Bingham County mountain roads are open again, but some locals are not happy about the delay this year.
Bingham County commissioners passed an ordinance in 2018 setting firm dates on when mountain roads would close and reopen for winter months. In previous years, they would pass a resolution to close or open the roads based on the weather. Some locals are saying they are being prohibited from getting to their property longer than is necessary due to the firm dates.
“We all look forward to getting in here as soon as we can because there are lots of folks who are up here anyway on side-by-sides, motorcycles and four-by-fours as soon as they can get on the road,” said Don Gosswiller, a property owner in Bone. “They all go right on past the road closed sign.”
Gosswiller is a property owner in the area. He said he and several others own recreational cabins, part-time homes and ranches.
During winter months, Bingham County mountain roads, including Bone, Wolverine Canyon and Blackfoot River roads, are closed and groomed as snowmobile trails. Any vehicles not equipped with tracks and registered as snowmobiles are prohibited from using the roads from Dec. 1 to May 1.
“As public works director, rather than trying to run up into the mountains all the time and check for snow and try to see if it’s time yet … we set these dates,” Bingham County Public Works Director Dusty Whited told EastIdahoNews.com. “We feel that on average — probably nine out of ten years — these dates are going to be good.
Gosswiller disagrees. He says he has kept a journal for 22 years and has noted each time the roads were reopened or plowed around his property since the year 2000.
Gosswiller sent those entries to EastIdahoNews.com. Those journal entries show roads were reopened or plowed between March and April every year.
“I rode my (bicycle) in here to check on things and make sure everything’s all right, and the road is mostly bare,” Gosswiller said. “There are tracks up here. People have been in here with four-wheel-drives and side-by-sides up and down this road already.”
He said the area where people have property and live part of the year is within a three-mile radius.
“If people are going to be coming up here on the road anyway, what in the heck difference does it make to the county to plow this section of road open for the four, five, six, seven or eight of us that own property along here that like to get in here right away?”
Whited said, regardless of whether the roads around the property owners are plowed, people are not legally allowed to drive there until May 1.
Driving past the road closed signs before May 1 is a misdemeanor and could result in a $1,000 fine or up to six months in the county jail.
“The problem with allowing them to come in as soon as the roads are open — we actually have huge road graders and big plows you can’t hardly (sic) see around. People are coming in on the road, and when they get to the end of the road where we’re plowing, they drive right up behind our equipment. Our employees and our equipment have come close to running people over,” Whited said.
Property owners and ranchers in the area plan to meet with county commissioners within the next month to discuss the issue.
“To plow a little three-mile section and then go on about their business and do everything else should be no problem,” Gosswiller said.