Fish Creek bridge

Despite the increase of trespassing visitors on the private footbridge behind Pearl Street Bagels in Wilson, Teton County Commissioners said a privacy fence would be too disruptive to wildlife.

In the heart of downtown Wilson, one property owner is struggling to manage trespassing.

Curtis Kayem owns the 1.77-acre commercial center where companies including Pearl Street Bagels, Wilson Backcountry Sports and Moo’s Ice Cream attract year-round crowds. But Teton County commissioners unanimously denied his proposal to build a fence between his commercial property and his bordering residential property.

“The new bridge the Kayems actually built is like a magnet for people,” property tenant Ben Bartlett said Tuesday before the Teton County Board of County Commissioners. “On the [commercial] complexes, you know, places where people like to hang out, they drink coffees and eat bagels, and have beers ... float the river and all that, so there’s a tremendous amount of traffic there.”

He mentioned that safety was the No. 1 concern, plus the liability that comes with people on the bridge “potentially clowning around drinking.”

Bartlett, who requested the variance on behalf of the Kayems, hoped to build a fence separating the commercial and private properties to cut down on trespassing. The county’s regulations call for fences to sit back 50 feet from streams. But the fence would stop 12 inches from Fish Creek so as to “make it impossible for people to wander onto the private property,” Bartlett said. That prompted worries about hampering moose and other wildlife in the area.

Commissioner Mark Newcomb was sympathetic to concerns about the property’s increasing crowd size, but he noted a letter submitted by Doug McWhirter, wildlife management coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Due to the height of the adjacent bridge animals cannot pass underneath ... forcing movement through the existing back area,” McWhirter’s letter read. “This situation further increases the need to maintain permeability where it currently exists.”

“I think we have to be fairly diligent in making sure that there’s some level of permeability,” Commissioner Greg Epstein said. “Somewhere along the way, since [the Kayems] own both properties, I believe that they can come up with a way to ask people not to trespass.”

The commissioners’ vote aligned with planning staff’s assessment.

“There’s potential that wildlife could become trapped, feel trapped, and instead become aggressive toward any members of the public or patrons of the Fish Creek Center or the residential properties to the south,” Senior Planner Chandler Windom said.

Contact Sophia Boyd-Fliegel at sbf@jhnewsandguide or 307-733-2047.

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