Morgan County tears down fence blocking popular rafting exit
TAGGART — After a recently completed survey crystallized the location of disputed property lines, a Morgan County work crew on Tuesday tore down fencing that a property owner had placed to block a popular Weber River rafting exit point.
Officials said the fence was illegally built on public land and the owner of the abutting property, Kent Singleton, ignored an order to take down the barrier, a gate and signage. The fence went up five months ago as the county and Singleton jousted over the rafting season river takeout at Taggart, end point of the 7-mile Hen-Tag float route.
The dispute threatened to complicate the impending summer float season, because the terminus point is the only suitable place for rafters to get out of the river. The Hen-Tag (Henefer to Taggart) route has become a sensation, attracting thousands of rafters each year. Singleton and other property owners have complained about congestion, littering, public urination and other impacts.
Morgan County Commissioner Mike Newton said Tuesday a survey paid for by the county and recorded in the county offices showed that Singleton’s fence was on public property, owned by the Utah Department of Transportation but maintained by Morgan County.
Singleton was notified last week that he had until 9 a.m. Tuesday to take down the fence. Newton and County Attorney Garrett Smith said Singleton did not respond, so a county public works crew got rid of the fence at 9:01 a.m.
“For all intents and purposes, folks can still raft that section of the river and get out there,” Newton said. “In my mind, this is resolved.” The fence, he said, “was not at all in the correct location.” He said the true property line is underwater.
But Singleton said he’s not done. “I’m going to get a real survey because I don’t trust their survey,” he said.
He said “uninvited recreational access” has violated his property rights. He said some of his property is on the riverbed and that rafters will be trespassing if they set foot in the river there.
Most of Singleton’s land is on the south side of the river, opposite the takeout. He said he wants to develop it, but it is landlocked. Although Singleton claimed the county has thwarted his efforts to gain access, Newton said he would need to follow the county’s planning and zoning process for use of the land and potential construction of a bridge from the north side. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also would need to approve.
“He has never filed any paperwork with the Morgan County planning department for building permits or zoning,” Newton said.
“We do take property rights seriously in Morgan County,” said Smith, the county attorney. “We respect his property rights.”
He said Singleton has access to his property on the other side of the river, by walking, boat or driving across the riverbed. “It’s just not practical access,” he said.
Smith said he hopes Singleton gets legal advice before he places any fencing on the riverbed. He could be exposed to premises liability claims if anyone is injured on the fencing, Smith said.
Smith said the county also had safety concerns about the shore fence as well, one reason for the county conducting a survey of the disputed property line.
“The fence he installed was trespassing on the public right of way,” Smith said. He added that Singleton’s land is 20 to 40 feet beyond the property line.