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ATV club, county to partner in rebuild of Heritage Trail fences

Apr 17, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Owners of land adjoining the Wyoming Heritage Trail will not see Fremont County paying for new fencing along the recreation path. Instead, the Fremont County Commission decided to partner with a local ATV club to educate users and erect fences on the trail.

The Wyoming Heritage Trail is a 25-mile path on an old railroad grade running from Riverton to Shoshoni. It is paved until the northeast edge of Riverton where it becomes dirt and gravel and is open to four-wheelers, mountain bikes, horse riding and foot traffic.

Neighbors have complained that trail users trespass on their property and cause damage.

"The big debate has been fencing: who owns the fencing, whose responsibility is the fencing," Fremont County Recreation Board member Cade Maestas said.

The recreation board has voted several times not to build fences, he said, though it did fence a small section in the past.

"The majority of that fencing has been ripped down and destroyed because people don't want to be fenced in when they're out on their four-wheeler," Maestas said.

He said it would cost about $400,000 to build fences alongside the whole trail.

Some landowners have argued that a law requires railways to be fenced, and also that the county agreed to fence the path when it was built, but neither argument is valid, he said.

"Under state law you're only required to fence the railroad track, and since there's no railroad track, there's a good argument we don't have to fence it anymore," county deputy attorney Jodi Darrough said.

She said she would also look through archives soon to see if the county ever made an agreement to maintain fences.

Maestas recommended the county try to have a user club take on fence maintenance.

"If we can find one of these groups that will say they'll contribute $1,000 of materials every year and ride it and patch the fence (the county should pursue that)," he said.

He said later that four-wheelers primarily use the trail, so his idea was to approach the Fremont County ATV Association.

Some at the meeting said tribal government had donated fences for where the trail bordered its land, but commissioner Keja Whiteman doubted that was the case.

"Which tribe donated materials? I've never heard of it," she said, noting she leases tribal land. "Last I knew, all that property out there is under lease, and that's the lease holder's responsibility."

She suggested adding signs so users would know when they were on or off the trail.

"I don't think it's fair to say if you were on the rail grade and you ended up in someone's field you wouldn't know the difference," Maestas replied. "The rail grade is pretty well defined."

Commissioners Travis Becker and Stephanie Kessler agreed with Whiteman and suggested erecting signs.

"The first part is education, and that education is going to be signs," Becker said. "I'm not real interested in dealing with fencing."

He added that working with the ATV group is the right direction.

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