Residents looking for answers amid disagreement over use of Traunesian Road

SAMS VALLEY, Ore. – Tensions in one Sams Valley community are high, as residents can be seen trying to stop a property owner from closing down a road, they believe is needed for public use.

“We have no comfort to know that if we go somewhere that we’re going to come back and be able to get home,” resident Denisia Hines said.

Residents in the Traunesian sanctuary community, said they cannot get to their homes due to a road being blocked off.

Traunesian road is a dirt road, that goes up around two miles to a small community of around 20 homes.

“It’s our access in and out for everybody up here,” resident DeRyan Johnson said. “We have farms, we have livestock, we have animals, people and kids that are all up here. And if we can’t get in and out to our families and animals, then it’s not alright.”

Residents there said there’s been a disagreement with the property owner, Toby Womack, for years, on whether the road is his property.

He said he owns land on each side of the road and claims it’s part of his property.

Because of this, he decided to block the road Friday with a gate at the entrance and at the end of his property, to stop people from using it.

Womack said he’s just trying to keep his property safe and a family member was almost hit by a car on the road recently.

“I‘m having a hard time securing my property,” he said.

Womack claims there’s another road neighbors can use.

It’s called Eagle Drive and Womack said other property deeds explicitly include that this road is the only easement residents can use.

However, resident’s claim that’s not the case.

“Our deed says we have access to any road in or out of the sanctuary,” Hines said. “The problem is it’s not in detail exactly where the easement is.”

According to the sanctuary residents, the Eagle Drive easement is gated off, so they cannot access it anyways.

We spoke to a few land and planning experts this week, who said the nature of an easement is complicated.

However, they said a property owner should have written proof of an easement and without it, there is no easement agreement.

In this case, Womack said there is no easement agreement for the road on his property.

But, residents argue this is actually a prescriptive easement.

Experts tell us that is acquired through continuous and uninterrupted use of an owner’s land.

“It’s an easement necessity, an easement prescription, it’s been here for 50, 60, 70 years so he has no legal right to do anything to this easement that he has,” Johnson said.

But Womack doesn’t believe that’s true.

He said it’s his property and should be able to secure it.

“I‘ve received multiple death threats and I have a right as every other citizen to secure my property,” Womack said.

Womack reached out to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

A spokesperson tells us its a civil dispute.

However, the sanctuary residents say they won’t be able to take this fight to civil court.

“We don’t have to financial means to try to fight this with an attorney, it can cost thousands and thousands of dollars that he knows we don’t have,” Hines said.

Residents there said they are still trying to get an attorney involved.

They’ve also had to essentially camp outside near the road since Friday, in order for some to get to work and get supplies they need.

We’ll have more on this story as we learn new details.

NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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