Hughes Creek road landowner trades excavator for gate to block road

Perry Backus

The metal gate and its threatening sign on Hughes Creek Road are gone.

In the week before Christmas, a county crew spent hours clearing felled trees, logs and other obstructions from the roadway in the upper reaches of the West Fork of the Bitterroot.

But public access remains blocked on the controversial road.

The landowner, Jess Cox, said Monday that he and his brother have placed a large excavator on the road above the location where felled trees had blocked the road. Cox is considering exercising his mineral rights to his land by digging a test pit in the roadway.

On Dec. 30, Ravalli County asked a district judge to dismiss a Public Land/Water Access Association lawsuit that sought to force the county to take action in reopening the road. Its motion said the county did its part by removing the gate, trees and brush from the roadway.

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But Tuesday, PLWA executive director Drew Hanes said that organization would likely challenge that request since the road remains blocked from public access.

The controversy dates back to 1970, when a gate first

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