A gate blocking access to a county-maintained road will have to be removed and property owners may be liable for damages if the county is unable to use the road during emergencies.

However, those responsible for the gate's installation are asking that the road be vacated by the county and be turned into a private road.According to an order to abate nuisance filed by the Utah County attorney's office on Oct. 1, the left fork of West Canyon Road was found to be obstructed by a locked gate at approximately 9601 N. 18575 West on Sept. 28. The right fork of the road already has been vacated by the county.

That gate is an obstruction and therefore "is a hazard to the public, which has a right to safely travel the county road without obstruction for both normal travel use and in times of emergency," according to the order, which was filed by Deputy Utah County Attorney Jeril Wilson.

The road is west of Lehi, near Cedar Valley, and is owned and maintained by the county. Eighteen property owners - including Roosevelt and Mae Smith, George M. Lewis and Stanley G. Lewis of the Lehi Cattlemen's Association - had the gate erected and only they have keys.

The county has had numerous complaints about the road being closed, and officials are concerned about access to the area in case of a fire, County Engineer Clyde Naylor said.

Naylor said the 31/2-mile-long road should either be vacated by the county and turned into a private road or the gate must be torn down. "What this means is with that gate locked it cannot be a county road, and it needs to be either one or the other," he said.

The county had scheduled two public hearings on the matter, including a meeting with the Utah County Commission on Oct. 29 that has been rescheduled to Dec. 10, but the county is giving property owners time to file a vacation order on the road.

Stan Smith, representing the property owners, said the group may file that motion as early as Friday, though contacting all adjacent-property owners has taken quite a bit of time.

"So far we've had the unanimous support of all the landowners to do this, and that's not just members of the cattlemen's association," Smith said. "Instead, that's been all the property owners - including some mining companies, a communications systems company and the military."

According to Smith, the landowners are upset because there has been "terrible abuse of the road by off-road vehicles, vandals and thieves - like there has been some cattle killed."

The group realizes that the county has had a rough time policing the road, Smith said, and believes that vacating the road will provide the best solution, allowing the property owners to legally lock the gate.

"That's not going to restrict access to hunting and that sort of thing. That hasn't been our intention in doing this. Instead, we just want to be able to restrict some of the abuse that's been going on, and we hope vacating the road will allow us to do that."