Shryocks Ferry gate debate continues
About 180 feet before the end of the county-owned and maintained Shryock Ferry Road, a green metal gate is attached to a black wooden fence. From there, to the left and down a steep bank, you can see Griers Creek and the Kentucky River into which it feeds. A quarter-mile past the end of the road is the raw water intake and pump station for the nearby Versailles Water Treatment Plant. David Dean and Sally Droste, whose home at 2925 Shryocks Ferry Road is on the other side of the fence, said they installed the gate in April, 2010 with the encouragement of Jason Walton, the then-supervisor of the plant. Walton and his wife, Shirley, were killed in a motorcycle accident later that year, but present day officials have not disputed Walton’s actions in the matter. Dean and Droste said Walton wanted to make it more difficult for people to get to the city’s raw water intake and pump station at the river and the nearby treatment plant that supplies water to the city and much of the county. For years, they closed and locked the gate at nighttime and “often on weekends,” according to Dean. “It was open from 7 to 4 – standing operating procedure, and whenever there is inclement weather, such as snow, or an electrical storm – any time we feel that the county needs to get in here. They use our driveway as a turnaround – salt truck comes down here and turns around, backs up into our driveway …” Dean said. “(If) there is an electrical storm and we feel the city will need to get to the water intake source … we’ll keep it open.” Dean said several months ago, after complaints to county officials, Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle asked them to stop shutting the gate, and the last time they did so was Oct. 9. Two months later, a public hearing on the possible discontinuance of Shryocks Ferry Road showed the issue was more complex than some had anticipated, and the issue was put on hold for now. At the Dec. 12 public hearing, some of the magistrates said they’d gone into the meeting thinking they’d vote “yes,” but reconsidered after learning more about the mix of public and private property issues. Three days later, Magistrate Jackie Brown (Dist. 8), whose district includes that area, visited the site along with Coyle, Woodford Road Engineer Buan Smith and officials with the Versailles Public Works Department. Brown said he expected other Fiscal Court members to visit sometime after Christmas. Dean said he understood concerns expressed at the hearing by some nearby residents about their desire to check water levels at the Kentucky River during times of potential floods. “Anybody who’s lived down here for a number of years knows that those creeks back up prior to the river coming up. It’s hard to get a gauge on that river …” Dean said. Dean said he and Droste use the U.S. Geological Survey’s website to monitor flood-related information – but he believes others can get a feel for the situation from the gate, from where both Griers Creek and the river are visible. Some at the hearing supported the road closure, like a man who said he lives on nearby Fintville Road and was tired of people riding ATVs and shooting guns “all day and all night” on private property. Others said the move would cut access to the river and make it harder for the county to join regional trail-building efforts. The situation is complicated by the fact that, according to Droste, the road is owned and maintained by the county, but the property it lays on is theirs, as is land on either side of it. “Anytime you close a county road, there are going to be issues …” Dean said. “This is a unique situation in that the water treatment plant exists within a quarter-mile of where we’re standing right now, and the powers that be and many (others) have been down here and physically looked, think it’s a vulnerable resource.” Woodford Fiscal Court will likely revisit the issue after magistrates visit the site, and Dean said he and Droste expect the gate and turnaround to eventually be moved nearer the end of the road. Until then, it will remain open.