Country road’s fate sparks debate

Published 7:56 am Saturday, July 18, 2009

Farnell Road in northern Pike County is a sandy, two-mile stretch that connects the sleepy community of China Grove with the sleepy edge of Bullock County.

Most of the time, there are only a few cars kicking up dust on Farnell Road but it’s those other times when a pack of “mules” comes thundering through the quiet that prompted Jimmy Dean and his brothers and Robert Pirnie to petition the Pike County Commission to close the road.

But, on the other side of the coin, it’s the right of passage to from Bullock County to Troy and the opportunity to “ride the roads” on four-wheelers and horseback that has prompted neighbors to petition the Commission to keep the road open.

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China Grove residents, Jimmy and Rita Dean, own property on both sides of a 1.8 miles stretch of Farnell Road, which cuts through the middle of their property. And, it’s not the motor traffic that has caused the Deans concern or led them to petition to have the road closed.

“It’s gotten to the point that we’ve got four-wheelers up and down the road all the time,” Jimmy Dean said. “They’ve turned the road into a party place for riding and drinking and at all hours of the night. They keep the road plowed up and run the four-wheelers up the banks along the road and tear them up. And they throw cans and trash all over the place. It has gotten to a point that it needs to stop.”

Dean said people ride horses along the road but that’s not a real problem.

“I’m not trying to inconvenience anybody,” he said. “But the road has become a real nuisance for us.

“Sometimes we try to get down the road and there are so many four-wheelers huddled up that we can’t get by and they act like it’s an inconvenience for them to move and let us through.

“It’s a lot of trouble to keep the trash picked up. I don’t think anyone would want people riding four-wheelers and horses through their backyards all the time.”

Dean said there is no major flow of traffic along Farnell Road and there’s an alternate road that loops from Bullock County to China Grove that would only add a couple of miles to the route.

Jimmy Messick, a China Grove resident, has spearheaded the movement to keep Farnell Road open and his hope is that the efforts will be successful.

“The road does cut through Jimmy Dean’s property but it’s been there since before the Civil War,” he said. “It’s been said that the Union army marched down that road from Montgomery to Troy. It’s a pretty, sandy road that’s ideal for riding horses and walking and a lot of people ride four-wheelers on it. But, then too, a lot of people in the Josie Park and High Ridge communities use the road to get to Troy. The road is also the shortest route to Old Union Cemetery.

“There are a lot of people that don’t want the road closed so we’ve got several petitions going around to see if we can keep it open.”

Suzanne Johnson, a Bullock County resident, said she travels Farnell Road a couple of times a week going to Troy as do others in that section of the county.

“There is an alternate route and it’s about two miles further and, too, Panther Creeks sometimes floods and erodes,” she said.

Johnson said she understands the Deans’ concern because the road cuts through their property.

“But there are a lot of people in my area that don’t want to see it closed,” she said. “In fact, our county commissioners have contacted the country administrator in Pike County to let him know there is opposition to it from our side.”

Johnson said she believes that the situation can be solved by the neighbors on both ends of the road getting together and addressing the problem.

“I think we can stop the people from abusing the road and property along the road,” she said.

“I enjoy riding my mule on the road. It’s pretty and we need to keep it open.”

A public hearing with the Pike County Commission has been set for 5:15 p.m. Aug. 10 on the second floor of the Public Health Building.