While a second hearing concerning public access to the Saline River near Mountain View and Tony Kelly roads will not be held until May 30, a number of opinion letters have been sent to Judge Jeff Arey including those from the three viewers Arey appointed to investigate the matter.

The matter before Arey concerns a petition submitted by a number of property owners to end public access to the river near their homes by having the county vacate the road. The owners, if the plan is approved, then intend to install a gate to prevent anyone from accessing the area from that point.

The three viewers chose by Arey include Terry Benham, RJ Hawk and James Zahnd. All three viewers are of the opinion that the petition to vacate the road should be denied. All three cite various reasons as to why they arrived at their conclusion.

Arey also received letters from state Rep. Lanny Fite and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Director Pat Fitts. Both letters also support the denial of the petition.

The petitioners had previously cited a letter from AGFC Coordination Division Chief Jennifer Sheehan saying that the commission supported the petition, but Fitts’ letter says otherwise.

“It has come to our attention that some individuals have apparently interpreted the above statements as one of tacit AGFC support for the petition and for closure of the public access to the Alum Fork,” Fitts said in the letter. “I want to clarify that is not the case.”

According to Saline County Attorney Clay Ford, there will be no formal agenda for the hearing, but Arey will allow petitioners and those who oppose the petition to present evidence and testimony on the matter before making his decision.

For more in depth coverage of the matter including the content of the opinion letters, the viewers' reports and the reasoning behind their decisions, see Tuesday’s edition of The Saline Courier.


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