Dirt roads hot topic near Lowndesboro

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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Jerry Heath lives with three generations of his family on Young Farm Road, a dirt road just off U.S. Highway 80 in Lowndesboro. Some say it is nothing more than a “pig trail,” Heath said, but for his family and other landowners, it’s a pathway toward home that is sometimes impossible to navigate.

The home Heath purchased in 1984 sits in a curve of the roadway, where rainwater runoff crosses, washing away sand placed to build up the roadway. In an effort to improve conditions. Lowndes County road crews dug a wide path to direct the water flow, adding rocks and sand which Heath said exacerbated the problem.

“Every time it rains the sand washes away,” Heath said. “We didn’t have this problem until they dug up the road and put those rocks in.”

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In front of the Heath home, the road is narrow and barely passable. According to Heath, garbage trucks and delivery drivers pass through at unsafe speeds. He fears one will get stuck, or worse, trying to pass through the narrow pathway.

Heath said that during heavy rains, when the roadbed has washed away and becomes nearly impassible, motorists drive up into his yard to go around. He uses his own front-end loader to try and keep the road passable.

He has requested the county remove the rocks and replace the clay bed to make the road wide enough for necessary traffic. But according to Lowndes County Engineer David Butts, the solution lies in widening the road, something that would require purchasing part of the Heath’s property to accommodate.

“We’ve been out there a couple of times,” Butts said. “It boils down to the fact that the [motor grader] operator is saying he doesn’t have room to do what needs to be done to the road.”

Butts said the stones were needed so that water could drain off the adjacent hill without washing away gravel in the roadway. Additional space is needed on Heath’s side of the road for proper roadwork, he added.

“If he had more right-of-way, the operator could turn the water into the right places so it would not wash away the road,” Butts said. “When we bring in sand, it washes off the road. You have to give some and take some. If you put clay on the road, it won’t wash off, but [cars] will slip and slide. A gravel road is not set up to answer all the problems.”

Butts has worked alongside road crews and County Commissioner Robert Harris to solve the problem, asking Heath to sell a portion of land to the county so the road can be widened. Harris said efforts to solve the problem are ongoing, but agreed with Butts that widening the roadway is the best solution.

“We’ve tried everything we could, but with the woods right there we don’t have the space to get in and get the road built where it needs to be to keep the water going where it needs to go,” Harris said. “We try to slow that water down to keep it from jumping the road. We also try to make the water go down the road so it can slow down and go under the road.

“Mr. Health’s issue is that he doesn’t want any water coming on his property. Mr. Heath thinks he knows how to build the road, but he doesn’t. But, he has the right to complain if that’s what he wants to do. The viable solution will be to widen the road so our machines can get in and maneuver things the way they should be.”

According to Heath, widening the road is not the answer.

“They say, ‘Give us 10 feet of road,’” Heath said. “We don’t need to widen the road. I’ve been driving that road since 1984. We haven’t asked for the road to be paved. We haven’t asked for the road to be widened. We would just like it to be scraped once in a while.”

The county continues working towards solutions and Butts said planners are floating ideas for a permanent solution.