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Is it right for a Homeowners Association to cut off public access to public lands?!?!

We need your help!

Recently an article came out in the Payson Roundup regarding proposed trails and trailheads. There has been a little confusion on the facts.

In regards to the Juniper trailhead to the Bearfoot trail and Bearfoot Bridge –

The proposal is for an off street parking area/trailhead. (Not a Walmart Parking lot)

The proposal is for day use only. No overnight camping.

It makes sense to build a small parking lot for residents/hikers/visitors/taxpayers to use so that hikers/visitors are not parking in the road which is one of the many complaints of the HOA residents. Their other concerns are that you, the users of these trails, will case their homes for criminal activity and steal their valuable property or commit acts of vandalism.

Some have mentioned that the Bearfoot Trailhead also leads to the bridge, but this is an eight mile hike! This makes it largely inaccessible to most of the community. The Juniper Trailhead is only two miles from the bridge.

Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction built both the trail and the bridge, and maintains them for the use of our community and the public. When we built that bridge, this trailhead and connector were open to all. Since then illegal signage has been put up by the HOA and has gone unaddressed until now. Now it is time to set it right.

Some facts:

In 1981 when the original plat maps were drawn, these roads were deeded for public use to public lands and I quote from the dedication paragraphs of plat 586 –

“…and hereby dedicates to the public for use as such the streets – Trails End Drive, Spruce Dr, Juniper Drive and Manzanita Road as shown on this plat and included in the above described premises.”

(Note – Spruce Dr and Juniper Dr have been renamed to Juniper Loop, as shown in the parcel map, both of which are attached. The portion of Hilltop Drive along lots 121 to 124, between Juniper Loop and the TNF was formerly known as Manzanita Road, and is also a public road.)

So these are deeded public roads that lead to the National Forest. All other roads in Portal 3 are private.

 

Here lies the rub: Portal 3 HOA has attempted to close off our access to public roads that lead to our National Forest. They have put up illegal signs that say private road, when it is in fact a public road. They have put up “no parking” and “no forest access” signs on the Trails End Drive, which is shown on the official maps as a 54 foot wide public roadway.) The signs themselves likely violate Gila County Zoning ordinance, section 103.6-B : “Signs, other than traffic safety signage, will not be allowed in any existing or projected street, right of way, or street easement.”

Even if the public were to park on the sides of the road, off the 25 to 35 feet of pavement, they would still be in the deeded 54 foot wide public area (27 feet to each side, from the center line.) Wouldn’t a small parking lot for four to five vehicles be a better solution?

We are losing so much everyday including our public access to public lands, these roads and lands are paid for by every American taxpayer. The lands were meant for all of us to use, not just a select few, and this is where we need your help!

Please write a letter to support access to our trails and the proposed trail/trail-head development in Pine and Strawberry. If we don’t fight for what belongs to all of us we will lose access to it a little piece at a time!

Lastly, on a personal note, I do not defend the trails proposal because of a personal agenda. I personally am not physically able to enjoy our beautiful trails that lead to stunning vista’s and deep green forests but I remember a time when I could and I fight for the access to those trails for our entire community.

What the whole thing boils down to, this is a public road to public lands and an access point that already exists except for actions of a private HOA attempting to illegally terminate that access. It already exists, nothing new there. The question is, would off-street parking be an asset? That off street parking in the plan is called a trailhead. The answer is yes and to answer the question posed at the top of this message,”Is it right for a Homeowners Association to cut off access to public lands?” My answer would be no and I hope you will all send letters and emails supporting this.

Letters and emails can be sent to: angela.abel@usda.gov, schristensen@gilacountyaz.gov and info@psfuelreduction.org

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