(Lander, Wyo.) – While Fremont County considers whether or not to widen a portion of Mortimore Lane, Lander area residents on both sides of the issue have begun speaking out.
A letter and petition against the project containing, as of Tuesday, 95 signatures made its way to the Fremont County Commission. A petition in favor of the project was expected to begin circulating in businesses around Lander on Thursday.
The project was named by the county’s 1 percent tax citizen committee as a top priority due to safety issues for people who use the road for exercise and recreation. The stretch of road from Sinks Canyon Road to the recently reconstructed bridge contains no paved shoulder. The road is part of a popular recreation loop, known as the Tomato Loop.
Part of the petition’s argument against any work being done on the road is that recreationists display “poor behaviors” and that exercise and recreation was never intended as a use for the road. Among the behaviors mentioned are people not moving for traffic, pets causing problems, using cell phones and not using reflectors.
“Mortimore Lane was never designed nor intended to be over utilized by non-motorized users indulging in personal recreation choices,” states the letter, whose author is not named. The group of petitioners calls themselves the Citizens Against Widening Lander Area Country Lanes and Roads. “That original intention is evidenced by the fact that Mortimore Lane has stayed in its original form for over 122 years.”
The project would be done likely next spring in conjunction with a City of Lander project to replace a water main that runs beneath the road. Engineers at Dowl HKM have said that doing the two at the same time would save taxpayers about $60,000.
At issue is whether the right of way should be widened from the current 60 foot. Options on the table are to leave the road as is, reconstruct and add a five foot walking/biking path with no right of way expansion, adding the path and expanding the right of way to the county’s preferred standard of 80 feet, or reconstructing the road with no pathway.
Via the letter, the petitioners ask the county to honor the road’s original intent and state that many Lander area residents “are being impacted by non-motorized users, not just on Mortimore Lane.” The petitioners ask that the county and city pursue a pathway from Lander to Sinks Canyon, which the letter states would not impact any Mortimore Lane residents.
According to Dowl HKM’s Diane Oress, this phase of the project would impact nine land owners. County Transportation Superintendent said regardless of the option chosen, several fences would need to be moved due to them encroaching on the existing right of way.
Nyssa Whitford, a member of Lander Cycling, has drafted a letter for people to sign in favor of adding a pathway. In an interview, Whitford said she is in favor of the option of adding a pathway without widening the right of way. She said she and others will be reaching out to groups who use the road and place it at businesses in Lander that focus on outdoor activities.
The county’s deadline for comment on the project is tomorrow, Oct. 11.