Trail Tails

April 24, 2007

We have been moo-ling over the controversy regarding the opinion of our Town Attorney that dedication of horse trails cannot be required for lot line adjustments. And while many of us feel our horses are the single most important thing about living in Woodside, we have to say BULLY to the town attorney for having the courage to stand by the law in the face of so much emotion in this Town over trails.

We have all seen how extreme some can get over this issue. Some of us also have great pride in our own horse trails and, whether we ride or not, we enjoy the sight of the horses and riders passing by on them, and we want to strongly encourage the creation of new trails. On the other hand, we do believe the Constitution protects everyone’s property rights and prohibits taking of our neighbor’s property without just compensation.

As fired up as we and others were on the issue, we thought we should find out from some third parties what the law really is. So, we asked a couple of law-wranglers we know and they agreed with the Town Attorney. We were told that “under constitutional and statutory law, the Town cannot demand trails as a condition of a lot line adjustment or a minor (less than 5 lot) subdivision.”

What really worries us is that some members of our community want to claim prescriptive rights to voluntary trails. The public may, under some circumstances, obtain a right-of-way through persistent public use of private land. Whether or not a court would ever find that the voluntary trails in this Town create prescriptive rights, we are afraid that even the threat may encourage others to periodically close down permissive trails to avoid having their property confiscated. We are also concerned what message is being sent to our non-riding neighbors. We want to promote the support of all Woodsiders.

In the past, when there was talk of prescriptive easements, some folks temporarily closed their trails to emphasize that the use was permissive and to avoid a claim that any one had a right to use the trail. Many trails in our Town are the result of the generous hospitality of the property owners who are moo-ved to make their beautiful property available to others. They should be applauded, rather than threatened by the notion that their generosity could result in the loss of their property. The Town should think of ways to incentivize trails, not insensitively impose them.

You can read the full transcript below.

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