FIRECO, WV (WOAY) – Residents of Raleigh County have started a petition to reopen dirt roads that are claimed to be private property.
Recently, private businesses have been closing off some of the roads with gates, claiming they are abandoned and private property. Lucy Lester, a concerned resident of the Fireco area, says that the roads aren’t abandoned or privately owned, and are used everyday by locals.
“There are county roads in West Virginia that we pay tax dollars on to keep our roads open, to keep them maintenanced. These roads are being blocked by individuals and businesses, saying that our dirt roads are abandoned, but they’re not,” Lester said.
Locals have started a petition demanding that gates blocking off the roads are removed. The organizers of the petition claim that the state has marked these roads as unkept and have even removed some from state maps. Lester says hundreds have already signed the petition to end this.
“Just in two days I got, just handing them out and leaving them out at local businesses, I got over 200 signatures. In one day in just a couple of hours, there were 113 signatures that came in.”
Some of the roads are the only access to cemeteries in the area, and Lester claims the state is wrongly marking them as unused. Lester also says the roads are used by ATV riders, cyclists and hikers. She says that tax dollars go to these roads and they should be kept open to the public.
“Our country roads are precious to us in West Virginia and we need to work together to keep them safe. We pay taxes on them, it is our right to go and drive down these country roads. They’re not to be blocked, they’re not to be abandoned.”
Locals have contacted the Department of Transportation (DOT) for support. They want the DOT to prove that the roads are owned by the state and maintained by taxpayers. Most of these roads in Raleigh County stem off from Route 44, and Lester says she hopes things are resolved soon.
The petition called “Keep Our Dirt Roads Open” is available at some local businesses around the Raleigh County area.