Other roads should take priority before South Fork

Submitted by David Keister
Posted 4/6/21

Dear Editor:

In response to the article “Feds may help fund more improvements to South Fork Road” dated March 30.

Really? We live in a county where over half the roads are …

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Other roads should take priority before South Fork


Dear Editor:

In response to the article “Feds may help fund more improvements to South Fork Road” dated March 30.

Really? We live in a county where over half the roads are dirt/gravel. That means that likely half of you reading this article live on a dirt road. Now our county engineer wants to continue to spend our county money, $2,120,000, to continue the upgrade of an already paved road! And that amount is only half of what they really want to do to complete the trifecta.  And this “already paved road” leads to the homes of a very few ranchers and resorts who do not even live there much of the year. Big money from liberal states is buying up much of the open property on the South Fork.

In the March 30 article, the “sell” is that the Feds will cough up 85% of the project and the county only has to contribute 15%. Sounds good on the surface. But keep in mind that those federal funds are still our taxes. And the Park County share is $2.12 million. Where are these funds going to come from? Another 1 cent tax? The county has already scaled back from grading and upkeep of gravel roads in the county, using “budget cuts” and “COVID-19” like they were weather forecasts. 

If the county is going to go after supporting federal funds, why not go after matching funds to fix all of the dirt roads and streets in the county, chip sealing or paving the many roads in populated areas, along with having the county take over maintenance and snow plowing of all established roads and streets that the county claims are “private.” Wyoming law permits the county to bring in (acceptance) of all the “private” streets, trails, roads, lanes, circles and any other named access to populated and now public areas. Criteria like: Are utilities using the road? Is mail and other delivery services using the road? Do emergency vehicles have access? Has the road, street, lane, etc., been established for more than 10 years with county-assigned names?

As a part of a city council for a town the size of Cody, we were able to get matching funds from the EPA to chip seal and pave streets and roads. And there were provisions where communities could vote to bring in their own matching funds to get federal, state and county funding support to improve their dirt roads. Even roads that were previously designated “private.”

The county commissioners should be the ones lobbying for our support for this new South Fork improvement project. And the commissioners need to be prepared for pushback on the priorities for the county.

Few people wanted or thought there was a need for the first part of the South Fork project that cost nearly $15 million of federal and county monies that re-paved an already paved road. The dirt roads that were there are still there. It is a pretty road, the 6 miles of new pavement, but the “access” issue claimed by the county engineer was never in question. It was paved before, as are all the parts they want to continue to upgrade. Traveling the South Fork nearly every day, very few vehicles are observed over the upgraded area. The improvements are similar to the 10-mile stretch of road to Meeteetse that got finished last year. That road is used by thousands every day. The far end of the South Fork is used more by elk, sheep, deer, antelope and occasional predator.

In this time of much needed fiscal responsibility do we want to pursue this kind of “wish list” spending or pull together and do some serious, much needed repairs and maintenance to the 600-plus miles of dirt roads? The county commissioners will ultimately make the decision on this, but it is up to us to let them know what we really want. You can contact them through www.parkcounty.us/commissioners/countycommissioners.html. 

Let’s let them know that we want our roads, streets, lanes, circles, trails improved before we continue to further upgrade an already paved road. Our county commissioners were elected to do the will of the people, not just the will of one appointed employee or a few elites.

David Keister