- Associated Press - Monday, April 20, 2015

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (AP) - A granddaughter of Oregon tire magnate Les Schwab proposes to close a gravel road that Central Oregon hunters have used for decades to get to elk hunting grounds described as some of the best in the West.

Julie Waibel’s family has long owned the Les Schwab Ranch along Oregon 380, also known as the Paulina Highway. It’s about 30 miles southeast of Prineville in the Crooked River drainage, south of the main part of the Ochoco (OH’-chuh-koh) National Forest.

Waibel plans two gates across Teaters Road, which has for decades provided access for hunters, hikers and others seeking recreation on public land, The Bulletin newspaper of Bend (https://bit.ly/1J3aUgt) reported Monday. It also offers access to one of two points of entry to the North Fork Crooked Wild and Scenic River area.

The federal government thought it had right of way on the private road. Hunters hope to contest the closure.

“We’re definitely going to try to fight this and see what we can do,” said Dale Conlee, interim president of the Prineville chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association. “It basically snuck up on us.”

Attempts to reach Waibel were unsuccessful.

Both federal agencies and private owners have land in the area. In October 2013, ownership of the ranch changed from Les Schwab Tire Centers of Oregon Inc. to Waibel Ranches LLC, according to state records.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has provided access to Teaters Road for decades, said Lisa Clark, a spokeswoman. The bureau rejected Waibel’s request a year ago that it close the road, saying that wouldn’t be in the public interest, Clark said.

But, she said, a representative for Waibel recently found that the agency’s right of way didn’t cover the entire length of the private road, so Waibel could move forward on her own to close the road.

The agency still wants to see the road open, and its workers will review archives this week to see whether they support Waibel’s position, she said.

Schwab died in 2007 at 89. He was orphaned in his teens. At age 25, he borrowed $11,000 so he could leave a job as a newspaper circulation manager to start a tire store.

By the time he died, he’d built a regional empire of 410 stores doing more than a billion dollars in yearly sales.

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Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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