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Heart Mountain access closed off

Private canal road no longer open to public

The Heart Mountain Irrigation District is prohibiting public access along one of its canal roads — and those barred now want to get that access back.

Park County Commissioner Lee Livingston said he’s received a lot of calls from people who enjoyed access to Heart Mountain via the canal road for years, but now are precluded.

Livingston said he hopes to work with the irrigation district to gain the public entry to the public land adjacent to the canal.

Public access terminates when Lane 17 becomes the canal road, said Randy Watts, district manager.

“That road is our easement,” Watts said. “It’s not a public road.”

The district is enforcing its no trespassing policy. Watts said he is not patrolling the road but does call the sheriff — and he encourages others to follow suit if they spot trespassers.

While the canal road leads to public land near Heart Mountain where hunting and outdoor recreation await,  private landowners in the district are irked by irresponsible parties crossing their private property to inflict occasional damage. No trespassing signs are being shot or vandalized, Watts said.

Livingston said he understands the landowners’ position and recognizes the fact that there are “slob hunters,” who do not respect other people’s property or the land.

Watts said there’s also a real danger around irrigation facilities — equipment and currents in the canal beyond what a human or animal can traverse. A vehicle slid off the road and damaged a fence and another nearly wound up in a siphon. “It’s not the best environment for public safety,” Watts said.

Watts does not believe landowners are liable if trespassers are injured on that private land, but he said that would be a question for attorneys.

Taxpayers do not pay for canal road repairs, Watts added: The district and its landowners foot the bill.

District employees are not authorized to use the road on their free time either, Watts said. “It’s not our right. I’ve been very firm on that.”

There were more than two old wood bridges crossing the canal to public land, but the district removed them because they were too costly to replace, Watts said.

Compromise possible?

What if a compromise could be hammered out?

“I’m reaching out to the irrigation district,” Livingston said. He said he wants to develop a couple of public access points on the road and determine whether public safety is an issue around district facilities.

“My goal is to bring all the players to the table and see what we can come up with,” Livingston said.

Watts can’t say what the district’s response would be, but ultimately the decision would rest with the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the irrigation facility.

“All the private landowners are behind this 100 percent,” Watts said. “We’re not trying to be the bad guys.”

The Heart Mountain Irrigation District’s monthly meeting begins at 9 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the district office at 1206 Road 18.

The Nature Conservancy’s Heart Mountain Ranch does offer access to Heart Mountain. The public can turn north off U.S. Highway 14-A on Road 19, which intersects with Lane 13H, leading to a foot/horse traffic-only trailhead at the base of the mountain.

3 comments

  • posted by Badger

    December 08, 2016 6:55 am

    Quite the laugher that the canal district thinks a multi million dollar project funded by US taxpayers is 'their' personal property. Add in the fact that these same people consider the Bureau of Rec land 'off limits' to anyone but themselves is pure arrogance.

    What the Heart mountain people, just like the Willwood folks are going to find out is that we the public have had enough. Blatantly polluting rivers, gating off access to public lands all while on the welfare dole of the Federal government has been noted by the citizens. The Heart mountain canal road, even portions crossing private lands should be open to all, public funds is what built it. . Again, millions upon millions of taxpayer cash was used to build the canal. Grants and free money totaling millions of public dollars have been spent maintaining the canal system. Again, a laugher that the Heart Mountain dist manager claims it's all 'private'. What will these folks come up with next, gating off the Powell highway and charging a toll?

  • posted by Dewey

    December 07, 2016 12:11 pm

    How does Heart Mountain ID get away with closing access to a federal government public project ? HMID has an operation and maintenence agreement with BuRec, but not ownership of the resource, which remains with the Public
    P.S. the HMID is carrying about $ 4 million in loan debt to the federal government which it pays $ 56,000 per year towards, and will not be paid off till 2065.

  • posted by Steve Noory

    December 07, 2016 10:21 am

    DO NOT let the Heart Mountain Irrigation District (HM) fool you. Lane 17, in its entirety to the the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) to the canal road itself IS Park County Right-of-Way (ROW). The HM has absolutely no right to block access to the BOR public lands. Confer with the Park County Engineer as they have all of the road ROW maps showing ownership & maintenance.

    The HM canal road twists along through both public and private lands. The only possible legal location where a gate or fence could be installed is on private land only..and this is a big IF (will address that later).

    HM Manager Randy Watts states "Taxpayers do not pay for canal road repairs, Watts added: The district and its landowners foot the bill." What Mr. Watts isn't disclosing is that Millions and Millions of dollars of PUBLIC money was used to construct the HM canal and it's road. In essence, even portions of the HM canal and road that cross private lands should be grandfathered in as legal access.

    WE, the American people funded construction of the HM canal. For a private entity to claim total ownership plus trying to restrict access is asinine. WY sportman, stand up and fight this one. Contact the County Attorney, contact Comm. Livingston. Don't get bullied on this one!

    On a side note, did you know that the Nature Conservancy (NC) is HEAVILY funded by U.S. Government grants? A very high % to be exact. Your tax dollars go to fund a basically private entity that can control or block access NC lands...lands that YOUR tax money has purchased supported. NC should also be de facto public land.

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