Court Rules in Favor of West River Trail

West River Trail, Rice Farm Road AccessFrom the Brattleboro Reformer, Friday, November 10, 2017. http://www.reformer.com/stories/court-rules-in-favor-of-west-river-trail-group,524346

The public has rights, under a “prescriptive easement,” to use a portion of the West River Trail in Dummerston, according to a ruling issued on Wed., Nov. 9 by Judge John W. Valente of the Windham County Superior Court.

The ruling also established that the non-profit group Friends of the West River Trail owns title to a 2-acre disputed parcel of land including the trail itself, located at the Rice Farm Road end of the trail in Dummerston.

At that location, Melvin L. Mayo, the owner of several parcels of land along Rice Farm Road, had erected barriers intended to prevent use of the trail. In a judgment issued as part of his decision, Valente ordered that Mayo is “enjoined from interfering with the public’s use of the railbed [the trail] for recreational purposes.”

Further, he ruled that “members of the public may remove all fencing, debris, barriers, or signs discouraging use of the railbed in a fashion consistent with the terms of the easement.”

A lawsuit had been brought by the Friends organization against Mayo, after efforts to resolve Mayo’s land claims out of court were unsuccessful.

The prescriptive easement, as described by Valente in his ruling, provides that “all members of the public may use the railbed that runs through Mr. Mayo’s southerly parcel for non-motorized recreation. This includes, but is not limited to, running, cycling, walking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.” The easement is based on trial testimony making clear the continuous use of the trail by the public over many decades.

Valente added that “the public may make reasonably necessary repairs to continue this use, such as clearing brush, mowing and repairing flooding or culverts that impede recreational use of the trail.”

The trail is located on the railbed of the former 36-mile West River Railroad, which operated from Brattleboro to Londonderry from 1880 to 1936. After the railroad ceased operations, the iron rails were sold for scrap, and much of the route became a trail, used informally for decades for recreational purposes.

Friends of the West River Trail was founded in 1992 to repair and restore the trail, beginning with the 16-mile upper section from Londonderry to Townshend. In 2012, the group began repairing and improving the 3.5-mile lower section from Brattleboro to Dummerston. It acquired several adjoining parcels, including the land at the Rice Farm Trailhead involved in the dispute, and the 21-acre Riverstone Preserve located in Brattleboro.

Lester Humphreys, chair of the steering committee for the lower section of the trail, said, “This removes any doubts the public may have had about using the full length of the lower section of the trail, from the trailhead near the Marina Restaurant all the way to Rice Farm Road. We have enjoyed good relations with many of the landowners along the trail, and as stewards of the trail, we look forward to working with all of them in the future.”

Humphreys also pointed to the newly-restored trail section below the new I-91 bridge. “All the bridge work is done now, and that section has been beautifully restored by Bazin Brothers, as contractor for PCL, the bridge builders,” he said.

Rice Farm Road Trailhead Access

West River Trail Rice Farm Road TrailheadThere will be a court hearing on the subject in the Newfane Court House 9 am on August 21st, 2017.

As many of you have seen, a plastic fence has been put up at the Rice Farm Road trailhead. About three years ago, Mr. Melvin Mayo purchased the lot and buildings above the trailhead on the West River Trail. As confirmed by the courts, he purchased only 2 acres down to the former West River Railroad. However Mr. Mayo is claiming ownership down to the river, based on the Dummerston tax map, which is incorrect.

People have been using this beautiful trail along the West River since at least the 1930s when the railroad tracks were taken up. So, the fence and the attempt to block the public from using the trail negatively affects many people in our community. There will be a court hearing on the subject in the Newfane Court House 9 am on August 21st, 2017. Please feel free to come to the public hearing and to add your stories about the trail in the comments section below.

Posted on behalf of Lester Humphreys, Friends of the West River Trail.

*11/12/2017 Court Rules in Favor of West River Trail http://www.reformer.com/stories/court-rules-in-favor-of-west-river-trail-group,524346

Rice Farm Road Trailhead

West River Trail Rice Farm Road AccessAs many trail users are aware, branches and stick barriers have been placed at the Rice Farm Road (RFR) trail head for some time now.  More recently, the words “No Trespassing” and “Private -Keep Out” were painted on the ground.  The area being contested is the RFR trail head, including a couple hundred feet south on the trail.  Friends of the West River Trail (FWRT) has deeds and surveys showing FWRT ownership of the trail for public use.  Furthermore, the public has been using this trail for decades and because of that​, has the continuing right to use the trail (this right is called a prescriptive easement).

​Recently FWRT brought an action in court to stop this obstruction. However, it will take several weeks to 3 months or more for the court to address the situation.  In the past, trail users who have come in contact with the contesting party have been treated politely by him and even encouraged to use the trail.  Unfortunately, our efforts as members of the FWRT to resolve or even discuss the situation have been met with hostility.  Given the situation, it is up to each trail user to decide whether to use the RFR access to the trail. If you are feeling concerned about using the RFR trail head, you can access the trail from Fox Farm Rd or the Marina trail head.   We regret the uncertainty and any inconvenience this is causing.

Rice Farm Road Trailhead Update

Rice Farm Road Trailhead Update

west river trail june 2013 7From the Friends of the West River Trail Lower Section Steering Committee:

We have been working to resolve a misunderstanding at the Rice Farm Road Trailhead area, where no trespassing signs have been posted for the last several months. We have researched the issue and recently sent letters in our effort towards resolution of the misunderstanding. We will post updates on the website as we have new information.

Feel free to email us with questions or comments at lowersection@westrivertrail.org. Thank you.

To view the letters, click on the links below.

Friends of the West River Trail Letter to Melvin Mayo 5-14-15

West River Trail Ownership Questions Legal Letter 2-11-15

 

Misunderstanding at the Rice Farm Road Trailhead

Misunderstanding at the Rice Farm Road Trailhead

West River Trail April 2015Update from The Friends of the West River Trail Lower Section Steering Committee:

West River Trail users may have noticed the No Trespassing signs and logs blocking the parking area at the Rice Farm Road trailhead. We want you to know that the FWRT lower section steering committee is aware of this. There is a misunderstanding and we are working on a resolution. For more information, email FWRT at lowersection@westrivertrail.org and/or check the website for updates. Thank you.