A dirt road runs parallel to the CSX railroad tracks from Marston to Hoffman, and the people of both areas use the road for travel, according to residents.
In the Stroman community in Marston, several residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the dirt road — which has large holes that almost always stay filled with rainwater — isn’t being paved by officials.
“We have made numerous attempts to have the issue of only one safe access in and out of this community (resolved),” said Marston resident Lewis Alsbrook, in a recent guest column in the Daily Journal. “We have addressed this issue to NCDOT, Richmond County Board of Commissioners, local Fire Department, and CSX with no attempt by any of these agencies to help us find a suitable solution to ensure the residents of our safety in the event of an emergency. As the article stated by Donna Wright, time is of importance in the event of a medical emergency.”
About a year ago, Emergency Management Director Donna Wright said emergency vehicles could use the dirt road for access should the need arise. The conversation took place in the County Commissioners’ Chambers during a monthly meeting, when citizens of Marston became concerned that the railroad crossing being closed due to the widening of U.S. Highway 1 would close residents off from the fastest route to safety.
Residents have continued to pressure the County Board of Commissioners to find a way to pave the road.
“Contrary to Mr. Alsbrook’s statements in the Daily Journal … ,” said County Manager Rick Sago a month ago in a contributed column, “the Richmond County Board of Commissioners and county staff have worked very hard over the last 13 months attempting to get NCDOT and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to upgrade the dirt road between Old Laurel Hill Road and Stroman Road.
“Mr. Alsbrook approached the Board of Commissioners at their February 6, 2012 meeting requesting the Commissioners help in resolving the situation on Stroman Road. I wrote to NCDOT on behalf of the Board of Commissioners on February 8, 2012 and February 7, 2013 asking for NCDOT to address the dirt road upgrade issue. In addition to these formal requests, I personally made numerous telephone calls and other communications asking both agencies to work together to improve the road, to no avail.
“In addition to verbal and written requests, the Commissioners asked District 8 Division Engineer Richard Hancock to attend the September 10, 2012 Board of Commissioners meeting to discuss this issue that was also documented in the Daily Journal. Therefore, in my opinion, Mr. Alsbrook is incorrect in stating the Richmond County Board of Commissioners has not tried to work with all parties to address this situation,” Sago wrote.
NCDOT District Engineer Kevin Hedrick said NCDOT won’t be paving the road.
“The Department of Transportation does not have justification to pursue addition of this dirt path based on statutes and policies governing road additions to the State Road Maintenance System,” said Hedrick on Wednesday. “That being said, the Department would not be involved in improving this road to a gravel or paved road. The residents in this area do have redundant access to U.S. 1 via Martson Road and other routes to the south and west, although relatively lengthy if detoured due to Marston Road track crossing at U.S. 1 being closed.
“The Department has been informed by CSX that there is no reason for trains to stop and block the Marston or Old Laurel Hill Road Crossing. Railroad track maintenance may occur from time to time depending on the track maintenance needs of CSX Railroad and in doing so these crossings may be closed as was the case in early February of this year. With proper communication between CSX, NCDOT and Richmond County, we hope that the citizens in this area and Emergency Services are properly informed in the future as to better serve the citizens of Richmond County,” Hedrick said.
The dirt road begins at Marston Road and starts out being called Stroman Road. It turns into Latham Road, then is listed as a state road and then becomes Kid Road. County Commissioner Don Bryant said he has driven down the road many times while growing up in Hoffman.
“That would benefit a lot of people,” said Bryant about having the road paved.
But Lori Vourgue, owner of Weekengo Farm Arena — a horse farm and barrel racing business — feels differently about it.
“I contacted a lot of the people who live on this road and nobody wants to pave it,” said Vourgue. “Every house here has horses and if it’s paved it would become a highway.”
Vourgue said firetrucks would have no problem navigating the road, should an emergency response situation arise.
“The only issue all of us have is that if you put Will Yates Road into a GPS it brings you across from U.S. Highway 1 but it’s not accessible by horse trailers so it discouraged all of us folks,” said Vourgue. “It should be accessible by all vehicles. It’s really bad.”
Vourgue said the pavement on either side of the railroad crossing is so steep, it hinders horse trailers from crossing over.
In the town of Hoffman, the sentiment is different.
“We’ve talked about paving the road in the city limits in the past,” said Hoffman Mayor Jo Ann Thomas. “I don’t think we have any problem with that. It would be good for the residents we have off that road because there are several horse farms back there. There are some restrictions from the railroad company and N.C. Wildlife, but if people further up the chain OK it, we’ll pave our part of the road. We discussed it at our last meeting.”
Hedrick said the road changes ownership as it runs between Marston and Hoffman.
“This dirt path is located along N.C. Wildlife property that is adjacent to CSX railroad right of way,” said Hedrick. “The actual path crosses private property at the end of Stroman Road, runs across a portion of CSX property and runs through N.C. Wildlife property. This path is not that of Marston’s or NCDOT’s. The path does run through a portion of N.C. Wildlife and they would have to speak for themselves, but I would think this is just a path that citizens have made over the years to get from Stroman Road to Old Laurel Hill Road. To my knowledge, no one is maintaining the path at this time.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.