The Ottumwa Courier

April 16, 2014

Good fence irritates good neighbor

By WANDA MOELLER
Courier Editor

---- — DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature.

Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road.

In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion of Doe Avenue within the camp compound. However, that short segment of public road is now the center of intense controversy between Camp Wapello and its adjoining property owner, Ronny Wilson of Drakesville.

“There’s no justified cause to build the fence,” said J.L. Stogdill, chairperson of the Camp Wapello Preservation group that owns the one-time Boy Scout Camp. “He cut Camp Wapello’s fence to gain access on the property to build his fence. We were never given notice that he was going to enter our property, destroy our fence and cut down a big oak tree.”

The hedge post fence built by Wilson prohibits Camp Wapello’s entrance gate from opening.

Wilson, the neighboring landowner for more than 20 years, claims he was within his legal rights to build the fence after conferring with the Davis County attorney. “The county supervisors gave us the road,” he said. “We got 400 feet on one side. They got the other. He’s (Stogdill) never offered to buy it. And we’re not going to sell it. We’re 100 percent within the law. The county supervisors closed the road, and half of it belongs to us.”

Controversy over the road’s closure started during a public hearing in January when the county decided to close roads it hadn’t maintained in years. Camp Wapello’s owners contended the county road ended at the camp’s entrance. “We thought this is where the county road ended, not inside the camp,” said Stogdill, who’s been associated with the camp for more than 50 years.

According to Stogdill, the public hearing became rather heated with both sides arguing where the property started and stopped.

County Engineer Dave Grove said the issue could have been easily resolved. “Camp Wapello could have given Mr. (Ronny) Wilson a key to the gate to check his fences once in a while,” said Grove. “But Stodgill wouldn’t do that. So we (the county) closed the road on Feb. 3.”

The vacated road was split down the middle, giving half the property to Camp Wapello and the other half to Wilson.

With the road closed, Wilson contacted the engineer and attorney about marking the property to build a fence down the center of the road. “The county engineer marked the center of the road,” said Wilson. “But somebody came out and bladed out the marks. We had to call them again and have them mark it a second time. This time, we put up the fence.”

Giving Wilson a key to the gate would have solved the problem. Stogdill says it wouldn’t have. Instead, it would have created huge liability issues.

“Unlimited access with a key was not an option,” said Stogdill. “The camp’s association with the Boy Scouts and other organizations is one of the reasons Wilson couldn’t be given a key to the entrance gate. The whole premise behind Boys Scouts is that you give us your child and you know that they would be in a protected environment. As soon as we starting giving keys to everybody, our agreement with Boy Scouts, and others, is null and void. Plus, those people coming in, we’re liable for their actions.”

With Wilson building a fence that blocks access through the camp’s entrance, Camp Wapello’s owners are scrambling to deal with the hardship the vacated road has placed upon them.

“We have a permanent easement with the DNR to access our property,” said Stogdill. “We now have to build another road into our property for them and others to gain access. There has been no survey by the county of this property to equally divide the road. His (Wilson’s) fence is denying us access to our property.”

Now two roads diverge at the end of Doe Avenue.

One is for Camp Wapello campers; the other is for Ronny Wilson to check his fence.