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BOCC hears Pine Creek Road arguments

by JOSH MCDONALD
Local Editor | March 30, 2022 10:16 AM

WALLACE — One of Shoshone County’s most controversial topics finally made its way in front of the Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday afternoon, where a petition for validation was heard concerning West Fork Pine Creek Road.

The petition was filed earlier this year by off-road vehicle enthusiast and member of the North Idaho Trailblazers (NITB) Paul Loutzenhiser.

In his petition, Loutzenhiser voiced his desire to see a widely discussed section of road along the West Fork of Pine Creek Road validated.

“I am requesting the validation of West Pine Creek Road,” Loutzenhiser wrote in an email to the BOCC. “Specifically the section that travels along the Avery’s property into BLM (Bureau of Land Management) managed lands. With the extensive history of public use, I believe that this is a public road (and) should be officially verified as such.”

This particular section of land has been at the forefront of several recent stories following a 2020 incident where Pine Creek resident Joe Avery placed a blockade of trees across the road to prevent people from recreating in the area — which was promptly removed following action from the County.

In the time since, several conflicting viewpoints have come forward to discuss the merits of Avery’s actions — as well as those condemning them.

Loutzenhiser’s goal with the petition is to have the road validated so he can use the road to access lands in the Middle Fork area of Pine Creek, where a popular off road obstacle course known as the Roller Coaster is located.

Avery’s family has owned property in the Pine Creek area for decades, and has in place several easements with other landowners which affords him benefits that the offroad group has taken umbrage with.

On Tuesday, Bob Jutila, who is also the mayor of Pinehurst and an off road enthusiast himself, presented the case in favor of validation for Loutzenhiser, who was unable to attend the hearing.

Jutila presented several maps and old documents showing historic use of the road as well as old tax deeds that alluded to the Avery family requesting that four acres of their land be untaxed, however, it was never confirmed if that was due to a road cutting across their property.

After Jutila’s presentation ended, the BOCC heard public comments both in favor of and against the validation — including from Joe Avery himself.

During Avery’s comments, he spoke of his easement with BLM which allows him the ability to close a gate on the Langlois Road, which is another way of accessing the area in Middle Fork.

The Langlois Road, or Coeur d’Alene NFD 2313 Road, has very specific seasonal closures on it and partially cuts through a section of property owned by Avery — which is where the easement that Avery has comes into play. An easement that allows him to close the gate whenever he sees fit, even if it’s outside the seasonal closure period.

Avery also discussed how the people who use the roads for Jeeping or other off-road activities, tend to leave the area a mess, including littering and human refuse and that his use of the blockades has been at the request of former BLM supervisors.

One of the main detractors in the road validation was David Gabrielsen — representing Manulife Forest Investment Management — a group that manages a section of neighboring property owned by John Hancock Life Insurance.

Gabrielsen spoke on how his group used a regional expert named David Weinkauf to look at all of the existing evidence and help them make their determination in not supporting any sort of public right-of-way on or along any Hancock property.

Gabrielsen further stated that is their belief that Loutzenhiser’s petition contains false information about any sort of historic county interest in the road which would support its validation.

One of the main sticking points of all those who opposed the validation was an accusation of people driving their Jeeps and ORVs through creeks and creek beds — vehemently stating their disapproval of this practice and believing that multiple Idaho agencies share in their beliefs.

During the rebuttal period, things got a bit testy as Jutila recalled the various points that were made and made his counterpoints.

A hydrologist, who allegedly was hired by Avery, told the NITB that their water crossings were excellent, according to Jutila.

Jutila basically ended his argument by saying that the group doesn’t want anything like a full fledged county road, but instead to allow the road to be considered an unmaintained county road and allow for public access.

Following roughly two hours of public comment, as well as being given over 150 pages of documented evidence for multiple parties, the BOCC concluded that their decision would require some time and review and set a date of April 26, to make their determination.

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