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County says ‘no’ to Chehalis Tribe on Oakville road vacations

MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners denied a request from the Chehalis Tribe to vacate two roads near the Chehalis River outside of Oakville.

Although the roads do not provide direct access to the river, members of the public use them anyway and the tribe says they’re trespassing on land owned by the tribe along the river. The roads in question are at Pearson Road and Old Garrard Creek Road.

County Commissioner Wes Cormier and Herb Welch voted against the requests and County Commissioner Frank Gordon voted for it.

Cormier said he was uncomfortable approving the requests because they might have restricted access for a neighboring property owner, who testified against the road vacations.

Gordon said he had received new information from the tribe, which might have changed Cormier’s mind. But Prosecutor Stew Menefee ruled that the public hearing was closed weeks ago and no new information could be presented. The commissioners had to make a decision based on the information on hand.

After the hearing, Gordon released emails from the Chehalis tribe, showing that the tribe had granted easements to the concerned property owner so his access could be guaranteed.

“I just got this information on Friday because it just happened,” Gordon said. “I wish we would have had it earlier.”

Gordon says the tribe has a serious concern about littering and trespassing.

A spokesman for the tribe said recently that if the road vacation was denied that Tribal police would start citing those who trespass on the property more frequently.