Red Dirt Roads: Part I

Some call the age old trails history, others say they're obsolete and dangerous. Leon County says it has almost 50 miles of red dirt roads that it's maintaining, but soon that will all change.

Historically speaking, the dirt roads in Leon County have been around longer than any local government. Some chose to live on and off of dirt roads, and some may have been forced.

Jane Sauls, chair of the Leon County Commission, says, "I think some folks live on dirt roads for the charm. Others may have moved there out of necessity. The property may have been cheaper, but now there are problems maintaining the road. Sometime, vehicles like school buses, emergency vehicles and the post office may not be able to get through on the dirt roads, so they don't even try. We get a wide range of calls and reasons for concerns."

But the county says sooner or later that will all change. It says the decision to pave all roads can and will help in more ways than one.

"The county does plan to cover those roads with open graded coal mix asphalt. The advantage to tax payers is a more stable road. It will help emergency vehicles get through. The end result will be an easier road to maintain," says Dale Walker.

The county will be using a special asphalt to cover the existing footprint, the dirt road.

"The graded coal mix asphalt is environmentally safe. It provides water treatment and can trap up to one inch of rain water, and that stops it from going into the run off. It sort of looks like a sponge or rice crispy. It's a real improvement we think," Walker adds.

The county's decision to pave the old dirt roads may be the source from controversy fights among neighbors.

"There are two sides, those who love it and those who hate them because they're having trouble driving around their property," says Jane Sauls.

The county does plan to cover all the county maintained dirt roads in the next five years or so. There are country roads that will remain because they are privately owned.

There are different factors that decide the cost for the county to maintain these dirt roads. It's dependent on how much it rains or doesn't how long a road is, and so on. In Thomas County it's estimated at $300,000 to $400,000 a year to maintain the dirt roads.

Coming up on Thursday, we will introduce you to some people in north Florida and south Georgia who are waiting for the dust to settle and for their roads to be paved.