A local road used for over a century was closed by private landowners. It led to an extreme dispute involving a petition, threats of legal action, and even death threats.
San Miguel County residents have expressed extreme frustration over the closure of the old road, which is used to reach the Santa Fe National Forest.
The country road has been a local favorite for over a century but was blocked off by chains and a gate when a California couple bought the property a few years ago.
What begins as County Road B55 close to Ribera ends as a path to Santa Fe National Forest.
Locals have used it for a very long time to access the woods. It was utilized for riding, hunting, firewood collection, and it was an area where locals picked pine nuts.
From Public To Private
Located close to Interstate 25’s Villanueva exit, the stretch was shut off when Jordan and Meleah Hosea bought a 77-acre property next to it. Recently, a petition was signed by around 300 people who protested the closure. Moreover, the Hoseas closed the road approximately two and a half years ago.
However, the Hoseas have claimed that the small road has been attracting a lot of problems. That includes suspicious individuals, trash, and illegal hunters. They claimed that all the “riff-raff” has made them feel unsafe. The retired couple expressed concerns over drug paraphernalia that they constantly find on their property.
According to the Hoseas, it is making their retirement much more difficult, and they cannot enjoy their golden years.
Maleah Hosea stated that she continually sees used needles and all sorts of trash on her property. According to her, locals use their property to dump furniture and tires. Legally, the road is private and belongs to their land. Maleah believes that the residents should not be entitled to the road if they are using it to dump trash or use illegal narcotics.
What Do the Neighbors Think?
The only other residents in the area are Brenda and Tony Hackebeil. They bought a 68-acre property. The retired couple moved to the area from Texas in order to be close to nature and the national forest. Additionally, the Hackebeils’ son runs a horseback riding school in Santa Fe. They intended to go horseback riding on Road B55. But, prior to the purchase of the property, Brenda Hackebeil asked the Hoseas to let her son use the road to teach children with cancer to ride. They exchanged phone numbers. The Hoseas seemed very positive and friendly.
However, when the Hackebeils bought the land and tried to reach Jordan Hosea again, they received a reply saying that the gate was closed. The two owners exchanged some texts, but Jordan told the couple that his lawyer advised him not to talk to them anymore.
Tony Hackebeil, who is a retired San Antonio assistant to the district attorney, fears that any conflict with the Hoses will result in legal action.
No Community Support
Last month, the option of a lawsuit was discussed during a community meeting. Hackebeil believes that locals should file for an “easement by prescription.” However, he cannot lead the fight since he is not licensed in New Mexico. Furthermore, Arnold Lopez, Director of Public Works, as stated that the county cannot do anything about the issue. Lopez claimed that the issue was beyond their reach.
According to Lopez, the road starts off as public. It then becomes private and turns public again when it reaches the national forest. It starts as a frontage road and runs for over 1.3 miles. After that, the road becomes private property, says Lopez.
Furthermore, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman stated that the Santa Fe National Forest is also not allowed to act on the issue. The chained gate is located on private property, and the road only turns into a public property at the border of the national forest. National forest officials have noted that illegal hunters and firewood collectors use the road frequently. But, they did not find any instance of illegal dumping. Ranger Steve Romero claimed that there were complaints of illegal dumping near some private properties in the area.
Additionally, another close neighbor, a manager of the Dead Horse Ranch, claims that people have used the Hoses’ side of the road to dump all sorts of garbage for many years. That’s why he did not object to the new gate. What’s more, Jack Skinner, the ranch manager, reminded the residents that illegal pot farmers grew a rather large plantation in the national forest several years ago. They used Road B55 to transport marijuana illegally. Maleah Hosea and Jack Skinner did not want to comment on the story any further. But, they have stated that they have a powerful lawyer.
Recently, someone cut the chain and included an expletive note on the gate. Maleah also claimed that she received death threats. She said that she feels like she is living in the Wild West. On the other hand, locals are blaming Hosea for creating the problem and the tensions.
One resident named Bill Schueller stated that Maleah chased him with a 9mm gun when he tried to approach the road. However, Hosea denied that she did this.
Schueller claims that the couple appeared very friendly at first, but believes that they want to close the road off simply to hoard the land for their own benefit. In turn, Hosea stated that the locals were bullying her and her husband by asking for the right to use the road. According to her, they did not plan to close the road, and they needed to put the gate up because they felt insecure.
The Hoseas gave their neighbors keys to the gate but changed the locks after some time. Additionally, they installed surveillance cameras and warning signs.
Michael Kauffman started the previously mentioned petition, and when he sent it to government officials, there was no response. However, plenty of locals of all ages have expressed their concerns online.
Interestingly, similar problems have occurred in other New Mexico areas such as White Peak. Historic roads that were once public have become private property and have caused problems for the communities. It’s a controversial subject that involves public and private property as well as a complex legal system.