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Chiliwist residents to oppose county road vacation

— Chiliwist area residents are expected to turn out en masse for a public hearing Tuesday to object to the proposed vacation of a portion of Three Devils Road.

The road, also known as County Road 1876, connects residential properties in the Chiliwist to U.S. Forest Service land and eventually to state Highway 153 in the Methow Valley.

A public hearing on the proposed vacation is set for 3 p.m. in the commissioners' hearing room of the Grainger Administrative Building, 123 5th Avenue N.

The segment proposed for vacation bisects property owned by the Gamble Land and Timber company, which is petitioning for the vacation.

Resident Bill Ingram is concerned about the company's petition for the county to vacate the road.

According to Ingram, his family and the families of his neighbors frequently use the road to access publicly owned land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

And while Ingram insists it connects to U.S. Forest Service roads, the vacation petition from Gamble Land and Timber claims it is entirely contained within private property.

A check of the "Road Atlas of Okanogan County" shows the route indeed connects to existing U.S. Forest Service roads, including Road 4100 to the Thrapp Mountain area. There are also smaller Forest Service roads connecting Three Devils Road to Forest Serivce roads 4100030 and 4150 accessing Mount Leecher and South Fork Benson Creek, which ultimately connects to state Highway 153 north of Carlton

Ingram acknowledged that some of those routes are temporarily closed until the U.S. Forest Service can budget and schedule repairs.

Three Devils Road also connects Chiliwist residents to North Star Road, and eventually to both Brewster and Malott.

Ingram said he understands Gamble Land and Timber company's request to close the road to keep people from damaging the firm's land holdings in the area. But, he cannot support the vacation, especially in an era where state and federal officials are limiting access to public lands.

Chiliwist residents are shocked by the company's request, he said, noting a few year's back several had questioned the company about Three Devils Road after it requested county vacation of other adjoining roads.

According to the petition, the company has maintained the road without compensation.

Ingram said area residents learned of the proposed vacation after finding a sign post laying on the ground.

"If you didn't know the road, you would never has seen it," he said last week.

Because the route connects to state Highway 153, the road also provides an emergency escape route for Chiliwist families should a wildfire engulf the Chiliwist area connecting to Old Highway 97.

If commissioners approve the petition for vacation, the road will be closed for public use, essentially making it a private road owned by the company and eliminating that access route to adjacent U.S. Forest Service land.

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