Request for assistance from Palouse to Cascades Trail Users

Dear Palouse to Cascades Trail Users:
 
A lawsuit filed by owners of land adjacent to a stretch of the Palouse to Cascades Trail (formerly the Iron Horse State Park/John Wayne Pioneer Trail) in Adams County could result in closure of that stretch of the Trail.  But Trail users can assist the State in defending against this lawsuit by completing and signing “declarations” (sworn written statements) explaining their use of the Trail over the years.  Information about the lawsuit and how Trail users can help with the State’s defense is provided below.   Users are requested to provide a declaration by not later than the end of the day on Wednesday, October 10.

What: A lawsuit filed by owners of property adjacent to a stretch of the Trail in Adams County could result in closure of that stretch of the Trail.  The property owners (the Hennings and a LLC they own) claim that ownership of the Trail has “reverted” to them because the deeds by which the State’s predecessor (the Railroad) acquired the rail corridor required that a railroad be continuously operated on the corridor, or ownership of the corridor would be forfeited and revert to the adjacent landowners.    (Note: the State disputes that reversion has occurred.  The State’s position is that the requirement for continuous railroad operation was relinquished and so continuous railroad operation is not actually a requirement.) 

Where: This lawsuit involves a stretch of the Trail in Adams County, at a place called “Marengo,” east of Lind and Ralston, and just east of Cow Creek, where the Union Pacific tracks cross the Trail and where Marengo Road crosses the Trail, and west of where Benge-Ritzville Road crosses the Trail.  The approximate location of the stretch of the Trail at issue in shown in red on the attached map. 

The State’s Defense: The State’s position is that no reversion has occurred because the requirement of continuous railroad operation was relinquished, so that requirement is not in effect.  But if a reversion has occurred, the State and the public nevertheless have the right to continue using the trail, based on legal doctrines known as “adverse possession” and “prescriptive easement.”  Basically, since the State and members of the public have been continuously using this stretch of the Trail for at least the ten-year period prior to when this lawsuit was filed (which was April, 2017), the State and the public have gained the legal right to continue using it (even if the corridor has reverted to the adjacent landowners).

How Trail Users Can Help:  In order to establish that the State and members of the public have gained the legal right to continue using the trail, the State needs to present evidence of continuous use of the Trail for at least ten years prior to April, 2017 (i.e. to at least April, 2007).  At this point in the lawsuit, such evidence can take the form declarations (sworn written statements) from individuals who have used the Trail.  So Trail Users can help the State by completing declarations documenting their use of the Trail over at least the last 11 years.

Attached to this email is a blank declaration form you can use if you’re willing to provide a declaration.  It’s being provided in both PDF and Word format.  You can print the form and hand write your declaration, or you can edit the Word version. Here are some instructions for completing the declaration:

        Please provide a fair amount of detail about your use of the Trial along this stretch (or as much of this stretch as you have traversed).

        Provide information for each year you’ve used the Trail along this stretch, going back as far as you can remember.

        If you are printing your declaration for signature, PRINT SINGLE SIDED.

        Be sure to sign and date the declaration and provide the city you are in when you sign.

        By Wednesday, October 10, please return the completed declaration to me via email at michaely@atg.wa.gov and by regular mail at PO Box 40100, Olympia, WA  98504.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Michael M. Young
Assistant Attorney General
Fish, Wildlife and Parks Division
Washington State Attorney General's Office
1125 Washington Street SE
PO Box 40100
Olympia, WA  98504-0100
Phone: (360) 664-2962
Fax: (360) 586-3454

Attachments:
Declaration Trail User  PDF  DOCX



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