Hale Road access point disputed in Circuit Court
ARENAC TOWNSHIP — Whether or not the end of Hale Road, which divides Arenac and AuGres Townships, is a public access to Saginaw Bay has been in dispute since 2006, and in Arenac County’s 23rd Circuit Court last week, proponents for both arguments testified before Judge William Myles.
The dispute originated in spring 2006 when Audrey Lentz, Arenac Township, and Jeff Hartley, of Howell, who owns property at the end of Hale Road in AuGres Township, placed yellow tape and “no trespassing” signs in front of an easement at Hale Road’s south end, which had been used for access to the Bay for, according to a resolution by former Arenac Township legal counsel Fred Trost, over a hundred years.
“Arenac Township is trying to get that open again for the public,” said Arenac Township Supervisor James Daly.
In the courtroom on Thursday, Oct. 30, several local sportsmen who had used the easement for duck hunting and fishing over the years spoke up on behalf of the plaintiff, Arenac Township. The general theme of the witnesses was that most users of the easement, which according to Hartley is not a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Public Access, used the easement responsibly.
Hartley and Lentz, who were represented by Willliam Carey, of Grayling, agreed during their respective testimonies that many users were responsible, but both said in the last eight to twelve years, especially with the explosion of ice fishing’s popularity, the easement had become a network of two-track trails that sportsmen were using to cut out the walking portion of access, especially during winter when ice-fishermen would drive right through the trail and onto the frozen water.
The defendants also said hunters and fishermen had begun intruding on their yards and driveways. Lentz alleged muddy trails between the dead end of the road and the Bay caused someone to use her driveway as access. She called this the “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Carey asked questions of Hartley and Lentz during their testimonies Friday, Oct. 31 that showed contrast in the easement’s use/condition in the 1950’s, when Hartley’s family obtained the land, to today.
Lentz said the number of easement users had grown tremendously, especially in the winters of 2004 and 2005.
“They were parked (in 2004 and 2005) as thick as they could park” along the sides of Hale Road,” she said, adding the use in the 1950’s and 1960’s was much more milder. She said these sportsmen were “Mostly local people and we were happy to see them enjoying themselves.”
Hartley also had some complaints about issues that had arisen with the increased frequency of visitors to the easement.
“There was some vandalism as well,” Hartley said. “The verbal altercations I’ve had with some people, they’ve considered this state land.”
Daly, though, says the anger surfacing is being misdirected.
“That’s not the local people doing that (vandalism),” Daly said.
To see more, read the Nov. 5 issue of the Arenac Independent.