Temporary Bridle Trail Agreement, Gives Negotiation More Time
A landowner adjacent to the Bridle Trail at Rotary Park gets a five month reprieve from public use of a stretch of the trail across his land.
Howard Christman went before the Natrona County Commission Tuesday calling for action to be taken to address abuse by trail users crossing his property.
Christman believes he has the right to end trail access. He says a 1956 easement is not legally binding, because it was never recorded.
The commission came short of calling for legal action on Tuesday that would have a judge determine the easement's legality. Instead they agreed to a temporary closure of a problematic stretch of trail, while they continue negotiation.
"Howard had suggested that there was maybe a series of things, that if accomplished, he would be willing to grant. I still believe, and I think the commission believes, we need some formal agreement on land ownership."
Commissioner, Bill McDowell, says if, by March 1st, talks don't bring resolution they will turn the easement question over to the judicial system.
The Natrona County Attorney suggests any legal decision could take up to 18 months.
On the flip side, some trail users worried about losing access, are concerned that any solutions under consideration keep in mind the needs of mountain bikers and horseback riders.
Neal Benton, is a spokesperson for the "Friends of the Bridle Trail" group. The temporary move by county commissioners on Tuesday, closes one trail section, but still leaves the question of permanent access to the west side trail head, up in the air.
Reconstruction work this summer by the Conservation Core of a steep trail section near the falls, is redirecting some users away from private land, but, Benton questions its safety and says it doesn't meet the needs of all.
"My concern with the new part of the trail is two fold: User safety- and not just bikers- hikers, and equestrians, the horseback riders, that's who the trail was mainly built for. They can't use that trail." The rebuilt section is also considered a likely erosion problem once spring runoff starts.
Addressing the trespass and liability concerns of adjacent landowners, whilst upholding public access rights is at the heart of the issue that's been brewing for over a year.
The question of easement legality could go before a judge if land owners and commissioners failed to reach agreement.