A rural Christian County road has become a money pit for the county road department, a safety concern for a property owner and a major thoroughfare for campers and offroaders who want to spend their spare time in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Stacey Thornton owns a house and property on Lookout Road.
“The road hadn’t been graded in several months and was extremely rough with deep ruts, large rocks, streams running down the road during rainy days, with multiple mud holes twice the length of a car and as wide as the road,” Thornton said.
Lookout Road stretches from a spot at Bull Creek near the south end of State Route W to an intersection with State Route H south of Chadwick. It’s a gravel road that connects state Highway with Cobb Ridge Campground in the Mark Twain National Forest. The road also serves motorcycle, ATV and horseback trails.
Thornton asked when any sort of maintenance and repairs would be done on Lookout Road. The answer was May 29-30, though the work likely won’t satisfy Thorton’s plea for better eastward passage. Christian County Highway Administrator Miranda Beadles said that employees of Christian County’s Common 1 Road District spent most of May 29-30 working on the road.
On May 30, the Christian County Commission started the process of vacating the county’s claim to maintenance on about three miles of Lookout Road.
“It’s causing a significant burden on my road department and we are unable to keep up with it due to the way that it’s being used,” Beadles said.
In 2005, Christian County entered into a maintenance agreement with the U.S. Forest Service which states that Christian County would be responsible for maintaining Lookout Road, though the road would essentially remain property of the federal government.
“However, we have had a lot of trouble doing that,” Beadles said of the road maintenance.
Christian County is proposing that it will turn over a three mile stretch of Lookout Road, from the turnoff to the Forest Service’s Cobb Ridge Campground westward to where Lookout Road becomes Center Road at a slab that crosses Bull Creek.
“Over two miles of that section is actually a designated ATV and motorcycle trail, and so numerous times we’ve put down material and tried to grade it, come back on on a Monday and it’s gone,” Beadles said.
Beadles explained that the action taken May 30, is not the end of Christian County’s responsibility for Lookout Road, but the first step in a process to vacate the road and turn it over to the federal government.
“This is not the actual termination of the easement and the termination of maintenance. We have to submit the letter to (the U.S. Forest Service) requesting that that is what we want to do,” Beadles said.
The section of road Christian County is requesting to vacate does not serve any residences.
“I cannot tell you what the Forest Service plans to do with that section of road. Most likely it will stay a trail, I would imagine,” Beadles said.
Thornton could leave his property by going west over the Bull Creek slab to Center Road, which is wider and finished with a chip and seal surface. However, if he wants to go east—or if water is flowing too high over the slab—Lookout Road is his only option.
“It is so rough it takes me 30 minutes to drive the four-mile length of the road between H Highway and the Bull Creek slab,” Thornton said.“In addition to these road hazards, the road traverses over several uneven, stair stepping, solid rock ledge areas that are like jumping over multiple connected, stair stepping curbs.”
Christian County Eastern Associate Commissioner Mike Robertson examined the road and its history.
“I can understand how it would be hard to keep material on the road. Those hills are nothing but shelf rock,” Robertson said.
If the U.S. Forestry Service approves Christian County’s request to vacate the road to the federal government, a public hearing will be held before the county stops maintaining Lookout Road.