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Man plans to stay put on Gardner property despite complaints it's an eyesore

Dean Goehring stops to care for and feed his eight horses every day after work at his property three miles southwest of Gardner, N.D. Complaints were made to authorities this spring when his stud horse escaped the fencing during flooding. Authorities have also received calls concerning the disarray of the property in the past and possible neglect of the horses. Chris Franz / The Forum

FARGO - It's been almost a decade, but the owner of what some have called "an eyesore" along Interstate 29 north of here isn't giving up on turning the dilapidated property into his dream.

Dean Goehring says having the time and money to finish work on his 4.8 acres three miles south of Gardner has been difficult. In a reaction to what he calls "unfair" treatment by the county, Goehring will soon have much more time on his hands.

Goehring was charged last month with livestock running at large, a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The charge came after passers-by reported that Goehring's stud horse was loose near the highway. The horse found his way around fencing that was repeatedly flushed under floodwaters this spring.

"I fixed it as soon as I heard about it," Goehring said. "What can you do when you have water creeping up everywhere during the floods?"

Goehring said he plans to hire an attorney and fight the charge. To do that, he quit his job as a surgical technician at Sanford Health in Fargo and plans to draw on a pension plan for extra cash. Goehring also sold the stud horse.

Goehring said he feels he is being singled out.

But authorities say that is not the case. Cass County Sheriff's Sgt. DeWayne Nitschke said no other complaints were filed about loose livestock during the flood.

Goehring doesn't deny his property may not look like a work in progress.

"I understand my place is messy," he said.

The charges are not the first time Goehring has had to defend his property, which is now home to eight horses.

The property has been laden with big dreams but half-finished projects since Goehring bought it in October 2002 with his cousin. He hoped to turn the land into a horse-riding ranch for children.

Today, miscellaneous lumber and scrap linger throughout the property that houses an older motor home and the frame of a two-stall horse barn Goehring hopes one day to expand.

Although most calls to the Cass County Sheriff's Office were complaints about the "junkyard" appearance, they changed to reports of neglected horses when Goehring brought his first two horses, a mare and a foal, to the property in 2006.

The complaints were forwarded to the state veterinarian, who conducted an investigation of the eight horses and found them to be in sound health.

"We've exhausted just about every means of investigation on those horses. They did not see any concern, any neglect," Nitschke said. "The unfortunate thing is that he is right next to a major highway. If that was located anywhere else, it wouldn't be a problem."

Goehring said the horses are meant to give motorists a visual break from the monotonous prairie drive of Interstate 29.

"He's frustrated with all of the complaints because he's not doing anything illegal," Nitschke said. "His buildings may not be the nicest to look at, but they do provide shelter (for the horses.)"

Last summer, Goehring underwent knee surgery, which he says forced him to delay cleaning up the place. Earlier this year, Goehring and his fiancée, Tricia Grieger, delayed their wedding due to financial restraints, and a new date has not been set.

"We'll do it when we can afford it. Right now they (the horses) come first," Grieger said.

Since Goehring cannot return to work for at least six months after choosing to quit, he said he will use the summer to continue working on the property, including adding siding to the second side of the horse barn, as long as he is able to avoid jail time or a heavy fine.

"We're getting work done on it; it's just not fast enough," Goehring said.