The right of way

Published 10:20 pm Monday, July 20, 2009

A wonderful piece of China Grove.

That’s the way Darlene Lee, a resident of Bullock County, described the picturesque dirt road that she often travels from her home to China Grove and then on to Troy.

Farnell Road is a cut-through road to China Grove used by residents of the High Ridge area in Bullock County.

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“We know the road as the China Grove Loop,” Lee said. “So many people from our area of Bullock County drive Farnell Road for day-to-day use. And, it’s one of the prettiest roads around. It would be a shame to see it closed.”

The Pike County Commission made notice to the public on June 3, 2009, a petition had been filed to vacate a 1.8-mile stretch of Farnell Road leading from China Grove to the edge of Bullock County. There is an alternate road from the area to China Grove, but it’s about two miles farther.

The petition was signed by Robert M. Pirnie, Jeffery Lamar Dean, James Edwards Dean, Kelly Gray Dean, Dennis Lee Dean and Lesley O’Gwyn Pirnie.

The Pirnies and Deans own the property on both sides of Farnell Road that is petitioned for closing.

Jimmy Dean cited abuse of the road as the reason he joined the petition for the Pike County Commission to vacate the road.

According to Dean, Farnell Road is a popular place for riding four-wheelers and horses.

“The four-wheelers keep the road plowed and banks torn up and trash is thrown everywhere,” he said. “People are riding the road and drinking at all hours of the night. The road is a party place and it has gotten to the point that it needs to stop.”

Lee said, too, that four-wheelers are sometimes a nuisance, but that’s a problem that needs to be solved some way other than closing the road that is used by residents of Pike and Bullock County.

“Farnell Road is a farm-to-market road,” she said. “It’s a two-county road. I think that we can find a way to solve any problems without closing the road and inconveniencing so many people on both ends of the road.”

Lee said a major concern is that closing the road would mean that, if the Meeksville Volunteer Fire Department was needed as a backup in an emergency situation, the response time would be greater due to having to “go the long way around.”

Suzanne Johnson, who also lives at the Bullock County end of the road, said efforts have been made to encourage good stewardship of the road.

“Too many people enjoy this road for it to close,” she said. “We’ll all be glad to work with the Deans and Pirnies to get the problems solved. We’ll be glad to help do anything we can to keep the road open.”

Johnson said four or five petitions are being circulated in Pike and Bullock counties in opposition to the closing of the road.

“We want the Pike County Commission to know how many people will be affected if this road is closed,” she said.

Lee and Johnson attended a recent meeting of the Bullock County Commission to make the commissioners aware of the situation.

Lee said Ron Smith, commission chair, contacted Harry Sanders, county administrator for Pike County, to express the commissions’ opposition to the closing of Farnell Road.

Sanders said he was contacted by Smith and Commissioner Alonzo Ellis and both expressed opposition to vacating the road.

“I’ve had quite a few calls regarding Farnell Road, and there’s a lot of concern,” Sanders said.

“Farnell Road is owned and maintained by the county.

“ No knows how long it’s been a public road. I’ve heard that it dates back to the Civil War. It will be up to the Pike County Commission to determine whether there is sufficient reason to vacate the road or sufficient opposition to keep it open.”

If the Commission votes to vacate the road, Sanders said the abutting land will become the property of the landowners.

Pike County District I Commissioner Homer Wright said he has received several calls about the petition to vacate Farnell Road and also has talked with residents in both Pike and Bullock counties who will be affected.

“When I first looked at the petition, I didn’t think it would be such a big problem, but there are a lot of things to consider,” he said. “One thing is emergency response time. Since Farnell Road is in my district, I’ll be the one to call the shots. I’m doing my homework. I’m looking at it from both sides.”

The public hearing on the petition for the county to vacate 1.8 miles of Farnell Road will be at 5:15 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Pike County Health Department.