Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rails to Trails Destroyed By US Supreme Court

What will become of the Annie & Mary rail trail from Arcata to Blue Lake California? A recent US Supreme Court decision has turned the idea of rail banking or the conversion of rails to trails on its head.
Part of Hammond Trail formerly a logging railroad McKinleyville Ca.

It seems that some Wyoming land owners who were granted 83 acres of  land back in the 1970's that had a rail road right of way under a law dating back to 1875 were fine with the idea of a train. When the rail road abandoned the line in 2004 a trail was proposed but the land owners sued.

According to the LA Times:
In an 8-1 decision, the justices ruled in favor of Marvin Brandt, a Wyoming man who controls 83 acres of land that was formerly used by the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad, located near the Medicine Bow National Forest. When the U.S. Forest Service told Brandt that the government retained the railroad's right of way across his land and planned to use it for a bike trail, he filed suit.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said the Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 gave the rail lines a temporary easement across the land, but once the rail line was abandoned and the property was sold, the government no longer had a right of way.
So when the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad abandoned the line in 2004, "Brandt's land became unburdened of the easement, conferring on him the same full rights" to keep others off his private property, Roberts said.

So what does this mean for the rails to trails easements across the country? There have been plans to have a trail around Humboldt Bay for years now but that may now face hurdles unforeseen when the plans were first brought up.



  2. Thanks for the link. This clears up some of the confusion over how this will affect local trails.


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