Clarifications regarding Pine Creek Road access

by JOSH MCDONALD
Staff Reporter | October 1, 2020 2:34 PM

PINE CREEK –– After crews from Shoshone County removed a man-made road block just a few weeks ago, several questions were raised concerning the trails after Pine Creek Road ends.

County officials were made aware of a situation in early September where a road had been blocked by Pine Creek resident Joe Avery, who built the blockade in an effort to dissuade a group of off-road enthusiasts from utilizing a stretch of unmaintained road past the end of Pine Creek Road near his and his father’s property.

Mr. Avery had discussed how he didn’t build the blockade to completely prevent recreational activity in the area, but because he said that the area was being abused and something needed to be done about it.

There was also a discussed unclarity regarding the road itself, who owned it, who was supposed to maintain it, and when access was permitted to it.

However, many of those questions have been answered thanks in large part to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Resource Management Plan (RMP), which contains the rules and regulations for all of the land under the purview of the BLM, as well as the maps that outline those rules and regulations.

The Shoshone News-Press had a chance to review parts of the RMP that pertain to the area in question, as well as hear from a few members of the group who utilize the area for recreating.

In the story that the Shoshone News-Press published on September 10, entitled County reopens privately blocked road, it was discussed that Mr. Avery was acting under the authority of a 2008 map (of which a copy has been obtained by the SNP), however that map has no authority according to the maps within the RMP.

According to Avery’s map there are two roads near his and his father’s property that are popular among the recreators question on the map – one of them is a BLM road that has date restrictions that close the road from August 25 until January 1 annually, and the other section of road is specifically designated for non-motorized use only.

Avery stated that when the BLM road gets gated up during the closure period, people attempt to access some of the trails beyond the gate by going on the non-motorized trail.

However, that map is not in the RMP, and is designated very differently according to the document.

The map in the RMP shows some very similar rules to the one Mr. Avery has been using (particularly the dates in which various roads are closed), but with one major exception, the non-motorized portion.

According to the RMP map, the section of road immediately after the end of Pine Creek Road is considered an unimproved county road, which basically means that it is unmaintained, not a non-motorized use trail.

It remains unimproved until it splits at Middle Fork Pine Creek Road.

Which is where much of this debate ends.

Middle Fork Pine Creek Road has been specifically designated by the BLM as “a motorized trail for rock crawling (extreme 4WD) activities,” according to the Action RC-1.5.7 in the RMP.

In 2012 the BLM mistakenly put signs in the area restricting the access to the road, but after researching the RMP, off-road enthusiast Paul Loutzenhiser was able to show the BLM where the signs had been placed in error and they were removed in late June of this year.

It was just a few weeks later that the blockade was built.

The North Idaho Trailblazers have developed a specialized course called the “rollercoaster” on a small section of Middle Fork Pine Creek Road that according to the RMP, they are fully within their rights to be using.

The Shoshone Board of County Commissioners spoke on the matter when the blockade was torn down.

“We at the County are not in the business of closing roads,” BOCC chairman Mike Fitzgerald told the News-Press.

Fitzgerald also went on to say that the Avery’s did not own the road and had no right to block it.

“Mr. Avery does have property along the road, but the boundaries are clear that it doesn’t include the road,” Fitzgerald said. “If you look at all of the records, deeds, and signatures and there are references to a county road running through the property.”

Mr. Avery had stated that he hoped the blockade and its removal would lead to some discussion between the multiple agencies and interested parties, but it appears that the situation is more cut and dry than originally thought.

As for the abuse of the area, Pinehurst Mayor Bob Jutila, who is an off-road enthusiast himself, discussed how he doesn’t believe that the issue is as great as it’s being made to sound.

Jutila discussed how he himself tries to be as polite as possible, always smiling and waving when he sees anyone as well as driving under the speed limit so that there isn’t as much noise and potential for dust when they are cruising through residential areas, and he encourages others to follow the same behavior.

The Shoshone News-Press will continue to follow this story for any future updates.