by Matt Hoffman and Kelley Christensen, Helena Independent Record
“In a major victory for public-access advocates, a Butte judge has ruled the hotly contested Modesty Creek Road in Anaconda should remain open to the public.
The ruling filed Tuesday found that the lower and upper branches of the road remain ‘dedicated to public use.’ Anaconda-Deer Lodge will have to install signs noting that land surrounding the road is private and that drivers shouldn’t deviate from the road.
Twenty-nine witnesses were called in the five-day bench trial in May heard by Butte District Court Judge Kurt Krueger.
‘It’s a win for every sportsman,’ said Mark Sweeney, a former Anaconda-Deer Lodge County commissioner who in 2012 along with other members of the commission cut the locks on the gate that had been erected across the road in 1980. ‘We opened this up, a road that was available since late 1800s and was shut down for 30 years.’
Sweeney said the win is important for Montana because similar legal battles are playing out across the state.
‘I’m all for private property rights, I’m a huge advocate of that, but I’m also a huge advocate of public access and public roads,’ he said. ‘Those roads need to remain open to the public.’