Oops! County makes embarrassing discovery about one of its roads

By Bob Unruh

(Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash)

Officials in one Wyoming county have discovered, abruptly, that what they thought was a county road actually is a private road, owned by a ranching family whose members are tired of trespassing, littering and property damages.

A report in the Cowboy State Daily details how Natrona County officials have gone to court to halt a plan by Stephanie and Walt Woodbury, owners of Woodbury Land and Livestock, to shut down access.

At issue is “County Road 505,” which runs from Casper Mountain more than 13 miles to Highway 487.

Lawyer John Masterson representing the family told county officials his clients have no desire to be “pariahs” in the community, but need help from the county to find a solution to the issues of trespass, litter, and even people taking firewood from the private land.

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“The Woodburys are active cattle ranchers on their lands and have BLM grazing rights over other parcels,” the lawyer’s letter to the county explains. “The continued use — if not abuse — of the access they have permitted has risen to intolerable levels.”

He urged the county to “start a discussion and dialog with these people…”

Commissioners already had adopted a strategy to make the road “a legal county road.”

The family explained that its members own the road, as the county never legally obtained ownership, and it now is being used for business construction projects as well as serving as an evacuation route for Casper Mountain residents in the event of a fire.

County Attorney Heather Duncan-Malone confirmed the family is correct about its ownership.

“It does appear going back through the land records that it was never formally established according to the statutory processes that it should have been,” she explained.

The county’s plan appears to be to take the road by “adverse possession,” which means under state law the county must prove it occupied “openly and exclusively” the land for at least 10 years continuously.

Meanwhile, the county is in court to prevent any plan to close the road.

The family, meanwhile, expressed disappointment that county officials declined to negotiate with them, and have confirmed those caught trespassing will be reported to the sheriff’s office.

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