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Gallatin County commissioners voted Tuesday to keep a 3.5-mile section of Bremer Creek Road public but vowed to develop seasonal restrictions on the roadway to prevent damage during the spring thaw.

The commissioners said they decided to keep the portion of Bremer Creek Road open because it is regularly used by the public.

“I’m confident the continued existence of the road is in the best interest of the public,” said commissioner Scott MacFarlane. “… It is in itself a highly valued resource.”

The commissioners also said they would work to place seasonal restrictions on the road. Restrictions could include closing the road to non-emergency vehicles in some months or prohibiting vehicles wider than 50-inches during specific times of the year.

“It costs about $1,000 a year to maintain that road, so if we abandon it, we could save $1,000 a year, but government is a public service and saving money is not always the best option,” said commissioner Joe Skinner. “I would be more inclined to spend a little more money and close it seasonally and try to find a solution for everyone.”

Landowners along the 3.5-mile stretch of Bremer Creek Road, which is near Maudlow and north of the intersection with Rocky Mountain Road, petitioned commissioners in February to eliminate public access to the road.

Wade Morgan, who organized the landowners’ petition, requested the section of Bremer Creek Road be closed to the public because the road is impassable when wet, posing a public safety hazard. He also said landowners along the road have other access to their properties and the road doesn’t lead to public land, so it isn’t needed.

“It would be my preference that the commission and the county allocate their very, very limited funds to roads that are regularly used for agricultural purposes that we need every day instead of allocating funds to a recreational trail,” Morgan said.

Other landowners said they have had to help stranded drivers stuck in the mud, have seen poached animals left to decompose in nearby fields and frequently pick up trash along the roadway. They also said mud-boggers tear up the road in the spring.

Recreationists recently came out in opposition to the closure. More than 2,000 people — including about 1,260 from Gallatin County — signed an online petition requesting the road remain public. About 110 people signed a similar petition at local bike shops.

Doug Mavor, who spearheaded the two petitions, said restricting the road during certain times was agreeable.

“While I sympathize with the road damage they have in the spring, (the landowners’ petition) basically states the road goes to nowhere other than the property owners and it’s not necessary for transportation,” said Mavor, who often mountain bikes on Bremer Creek Road. “While I could agree with that, I think the road is also used for other reasons than getting from here to there.”

Robert Barnaby said he has used Bremer Creek Road for decades to access land he hunts. He said he has never found the road impassable and has not seen much trash on it.

“I think it’s a great road that the county should continue to maintain,” he said. “That’s what tax dollars are for. … It seems like it’s just, take, take, take, and pretty soon there won’t be any backcountry roads, and that’s what Montana is about.”

The landowners on Bremer Creek Road asked the commissioners in February to abandon the road. The commissioners then created a viewing committee in March, which included Skinner and clerk and recorder Eric Semerad, to determine whether the county should close the road.

Skinner and Semerad visited the road in June. They found the clay, dirt and gravel road had recently been graded and was wet and muddy in places.

They recommended that the road be kept public due to its “recreational, scenic and regular public use” but that seasonal restrictions be placed on it, according to a report they submitted to commissioners.

The commissioners ultimately heeded the recommendation.

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Perrin Stein can be reached at pstein@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2648.

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