The saga over permanent public access to the Juniper Dunes Wilderness Area seems to be never-ending.
Just when we think there's finally a plan, another roadblock pops up. This time, Franklin County's funding for a new public road has come up short, complicating plans for what was finally to be the beginning of an answer for legal public access.
The county has seen the need to quell the nuisance some dunes users cause to private land and road owners along the route to Juniper Dunes, and commissioners have spent the past few years trying to scrape the money together to turn the first two miles of Peterson Road into a public street.
But engineers now say the road will cost $150,000 or so more than the $716,500 provided by the Bureau of Land Management for the project, thanks in part to some help from Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.
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Juniper has been a wilderness area since 1984 and is a popular destination for folks who want to ride off-road vehicles. Another part of the wilderness is closed to all vehicles but open to horses and hikers.
But there has never been permanent public access. Area land and private road owners have gone back and forth between allowing the public to cross their property and blocking the path when they've been fed up with a few nuisance visitors.
Despite the shortfall for the first stretch of road, the county is moving forward with a hearing on Aug. 10 intended to declare Peterson Road a county road.
That step is needed before the project can begin, and negotiations are still continuing with one landowner before a final cost can be determined.
Even if the county can find the money for the project, there will still be two more miles before the road reaches the boundary of Juniper Dunes. But it's a start and gets users access to a block of BLM land.
Two miles of legal road is better than what visitors currently use to reach public lands that should be accessible to us all.
It was poor planning to create the wilderness without public access in the first place, allowing trespassing to fester over the years and causing problems as people tried to get to the public lands.
But we are glad the land was preserved and set aside to allow for mixed recreational uses.
Juniper Dunes isn't alone in being a public property with access problems.
But it's time the federal and local governments get a project moving that will finally lead to the visitors using public lands without violating local property owners rights.