This section of Queens Road on the north side of Area G of the state wildlife area has been marked by county road workers following a discussion during the county commission meeting on Monday, Sept. 4. (Roger Sims/Linn County Journal)
MOUND CITY – Jason Coulter from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) met with the Linn County Commissioners on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Coulter told the commissioners that he wanted to be a part of the conversation about the repairs or closing of Queens Road in the Wildlife area.
Because the road is being undermined by the Marais des Cygnes River at a bend, the commissioners and Public Works Director Shaun West are concerned about the safety of the road. They have been discussing closing the road. West has met with the county’s on-call engineering firm to work on solutions. The engineers have told West that it will be expensive to repair or move the road.
A traffic count that was done showed that approximately 30 cars had traveled that road in a week’s time. At present, the county has pylons with a cable marking the area and traffic signs denoting it as a one-lane road so that drivers will be cautious.
Coulter gave a brief history of the wildlife area, telling the commissioners that it was established in Linn County in the 1950s and is a pretty prestigious wildlife area. He told them it was the second or third most heavily used wildlife area in the state of Kansas. He said a lot of that was seasonal use during hunting seasons.
He said that, because he knew there were some misconceptions about how the area was funded, he would explain the funding to the commissioners. Coulter said that the area was user- and fee-funded by hunting licenses, agricultural leases for row crops or hay, timber sales and by revenue from a federal excise tax that was charged on hunting and fishing equipment purchases.
Coulter said there was no money from the state general fund paying for the wildlife area. He said the area does not pay taxes on the 7,000 acres, but the department does submit a payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) fee of $17,000 per year to the county. He pointed out that 80% to 90% of the area was in the floodplain.
Coulter told the commissioners that the section of the road where there is a problem is on KDWP property and is the access for Area G. Coulter said that, while the road may not be heavily traveled now, duck hunting season will start in October. He said that Queens Road connects two portions of the wildlife area.
He explained the importance of the wildlife area to Kansas and Linn County. He told the commissioners that people from 28 other states regularly come to this area to hunt ducks. He pointed out that this is very important because these are people who would never think to come to this area if it wasn’t for the wildlife area.
McCullough asked if there were residences that were accessed by that road. While the answer was that was not the only road they could use, Hightower said that there were people who used that road to go to their residences.
Coulter explained that if that section were closed off to go around from Boicourt to Area G would be an additional distance of about four miles. It would go from 1.5 miles to 5.5 miles.
He said that he understood the concerns about the road but did not think that closing it was the answer. He suggested moving the road farther away from the river.
Coulter said that he was optimistic that moving the road would be an option for the county. He said that because it has been dry, it is not like it is an active site right now.
“It’s been relatively stable for some amount of time,” said Coulter. “I don’t know when it became, like, you-have-to-do-something-about-this discussion, but it’s been like that for a while.”
Thompson asked if there was any history that the state might assist with moving this road.
Coulter said that he did ask that question up the chain of command, and he learned it was possible.
Coulter also questioned why the commission was considering closing this road when they had repaired a similar problem and even paved Ragains Road about three or four miles north of Area G.
Thompson said it was clear that the commission knows the road is being impinged upon by the river.
“Whatever you do, I think you should think about a temporary closure while you work out what kind of solution you are going to make. I just offer that in terms of the liability side,” said Thompson.
“If we know it is damaged, and we leave it open, and some drunk duck hunter drives off the edge and drowns, we’ve got a problem,” said Thompson.
The commissioners discussed the liability issue of the road and ways that they could work on that. Commissioner Jason Hightower suggested making it a minimum maintenance road. Other discussion centered around having the on-call engineers develop a plan for the safety of the road right now and following it.
Thompson said there probably needed to be some kind of adequate barrier or a temporary closure.
Coulter asked if some time could be bought for the road by just moving the road over three or four feet.
West said that he could probably accomplish a temporary fix with signage adjustment and then go on to get an engineering study.
The commissioners decided to have the on-call engineers develop a plan to make the road useable, and to develop a study to relocate the road.