Part of trail privately owned
Legal matter briefly closes section of recreation route
October 3, 2007
Steamboat Springs — Users of the Yampa River Core Trail were detoured for about 12 hours Sept. 26, as a private property owner exercised his right over a portion of the trail that was apparently built on his land.
Tony Lettunich, attorney for the city of Steamboat Springs, said Friday that a small portion of the city-owned trail is actually located on a portion of Jay Biedenharn’s land. Biedenharn’s portion of the trail is located between Fetcher Pond and the Fish Creek Falls Bridge near Alpine Lumber.
Lettunich described the portion as a small sliver of the trail, about 2 1/2 to 3 feet in length. Biedenharn’s entire property is a 40-acre parcel that extends across the Yampa River near Howelsen Hill.
Lettunich said discrepancies between conflicting 10-year-old surveys of the land are to blame for the oversight that caused part of the public trail to be built on Biedenharn’s property. Biedenharn, a Texas resident, sent a letter to the city several years ago after realizing the trail was located on his land, Lettunich said.
“We’re not denying that a sliver of the trail runs through his property,” Lettunich said.
Steamboat Springs attorney Mike Holloran, who is representing Biedenharn, said he could not comment on the matter until he had spoken with his client. Calls to Biedenharn’s home were not returned.
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Holloran did not believe there was any conflict with the way the two parties view the situation.
The Sept. 26 closure was the result of Biedenharn’s concern that if he continued to allow the public to use the trail, he would give up certain property rights. A legal process known as adverse possession stipulates that a private property owner gives up rights to that property if he or she allows the public to use it for 18 consecutive years.
By closing the trail for 12 hours, Biedenharn essentially was setting the clock back to zero.
“It appears he’s most concerned about the period of time this encroachment has been going on,” Lettunich said.
During the closure, which both city officials and Bieden-harn agreed on, Biedenharn hired two off-duty Steamboat Springs police officers to ensure Core Trail users used a detour and not the trail.
Police Capt. Joel Rae said the closure did not cause any issues.
In the meantime, city officials are working with Biedenharn and his attorney to negotiate ways the city could obtain the sliver of the Core Trail, Lettunich said. Possibilities have ranged from the city’s request for a donation to purchasing the land from Biedenharn.
“We’re not trying to acquire through adversarial use,” Lettunich said.
Biedenharn now has another 18 years to work through the matter, though neither side anticipates negotiations will take that long.
“Hopefully (Biedenharn) is satisfied, and we can have a little more time to discuss our options to acquire the property amicably,” Lettunich said. “We’re very preliminary.”
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