Position statement on the Tyler Road
To the Editor:
The Tyler Road is in Mason Township. Its creation as a public road can be traced to 1803.
Records of the road are also found in town documents following incorporation of the Town of Mason in 1843.
Deeds describing properties along the road consistently reference the road as a town way.
When Mason de-organized in 1935, jurisdiction over the road passed to Oxford County.
Today, Mason Township has a small year-round population. It is located west of Bethel, near New Hampshire. Most of the township now lies within the White Mountain National Forest.
Over the years, the county has maintained the Tyler Road at public expense at a level consistent with local needs. This maintenance included occasional grading and repair of storm damage.
The road is not plowed in winter months.
The road provides access to a number of privately held parcels whose owners use their land for cabins, camping, four-season recreation, and timber harvesting. The road also provides public access to the National Forest. Property owners in the township and the public have relied on the public status of the Tyler Road for generations without challenge.
Unfortunately, in the past year a couple who purchased a 21-acre parcel straddling the road in 2005 have challenged whether the road is public.
They have filed a law suit asking the court to declare that the road is their private property. Our efforts to resolve the dispute have not been successful. As news of the dispute spread, county officials received more than a dozen letters, plus numerous phone calls, from residents urging the county to retain its longstanding public control of Tyler Road.
Given the great expense and difficulties the litigation will entail for the county, and on advice of our legal counsel, we have determined that it is in the public interest that we exercise our statutory power to lay out and take roadways to reassert the public's rights to Tyler Road rather than leave it to the long and costly process in court.
Nobody likes to use eminent domain power. We are doing so not to take anything away from anyone, because the road has been there some 200 years, but only to clarify its legal status. It is unfortunate. However, it would be far worse for the County Commissioners to ignore a small community's heritage, and turn their backs on local property owners and a much larger public - all of whom rely on the Tyler Road for a variety of endeavors.
Oxford County Board of Commissioners:
Caldwell Jackson, Chair
Steven M. Merrill
David A. Duguay