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“No Parking” signs on Aspen Lakes Drive still stood on Tuesday afternoon. Soon they may lead to court.

A judge has ruled that the public has the right to park alongside a road in a subdivision north of Hailey in order to access the Big Wood River, marking the latest development in a longstanding dispute between Blaine County and the Flying Heart Ranch homeowners’ association.

The decision, filed last Friday by District Judge Ned Williamson, says that members of the public can legally park within a road easement on Aspen Lakes Drive—and that “No Parking” signs put up by local homeowners “impermissibly” obstruct the public’s right to do so.

“My comment is, ‘Hallelujah,’” Blaine County Commission Chairman Jacob Greenberg told the Idaho Mountain Express on Thursday. “I think this is a great victory for the people of Blaine County, and in general in Idaho, to protect public access.”

The county filed a lawsuit against the Flying Heart Ranch Owners’ Association last September, after neighbors refused to take down signs banning parking along Aspen Lakes Drive and subsequent negotiations between the county and the HOA proved unsuccessful. Before installing the signs, Flying Heart residents said members of the public visiting the Big Wood had a tendency to litter and trespass on private property near the river.

The county argued in its lawsuit that the public had the right to park in a platted county right-of-way along Aspen Lakes Drive. Both the road and the land around it are private, but the public “shall have access to the roads and river,” according to a plat note written when the subdivision was established in 1979.

The county has maintained a 15-foot easement parallel to the east bank of the Big Wood, with two public paths to get there, as part of that agreement. It also has access to an 80-foot right of way along the street, about 55 feet wider than the pavement itself. The lawsuit argued that the easement includes parking adjacent to the road.

Williamson’s decision was “exactly the outcome I was looking for,” Greenberg said Thursday.

“The public asked us to pursue this and this is a decision that the commissioners had made as well,” Greenberg said. “I think we were in agreement with the public demand for assuring that we protect public access to public lands or waters. This is a big win.”

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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