Public access to public resources should never be a matter of compromise.
Blaine County is already negotiating with the Flying Heart Ranch subdivision owners who are attempting to block public access to the Big Wood River by posting signs that prohibit parking on the public right of way that serves the subdivision.
The Blaine County commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the matter for next Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the courthouse in Hailey. It could be the first step in giving away the public right to use public rights of way to access public areas.
If the commissioners fold, they will invite postings of “Rich People Only” signs on every public access in the county. If they give an inch, a line of attorneys will form at the courthouse door to begin to close or restrict other public access.
Their success would be the end of Blaine County’s priceless outdoor lifestyle. It would be the beginning of government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy.
Anyone who observes legislative proceedings knows that when adversarial negotiations begin, one party will lose something. In this case, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Not only does the river sustain fish and wildlife, its fishable waters and walkable banks help the local economy by attracting visitors.
If the county allows the Flying Heart owners to restrict public access in any way, it will hand a lock and key to others who can afford enough legal talent and time to wear down elected officials.
Citizens should pack the hearing next Tuesday and insist that the county not give an inch.