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Signs To The Contrary, Klickitat Trail Remains Open For Public Use

Concerns regarding accessing the 31-mile Klicktat Trail recently turned up after unknown persons posted "No Trespassing" signs at various locations along the trail. The Klickitat Trail has never been officially closed and remains open for public recreation.

Concerns regarding accessing the 31-mile Klicktat Trail recently turned up after unknown persons posted "No Trespassing" signs at various locations along the trail. The Klickitat Trail has never been officially closed and remains open for public recreation.

The 31-mile-long Klickitat Trail between Lyle and the Centerville area was never officially closed and remains open for public recreation, according to the communications director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

“Nothing has changed. We never closed it. It has remained open throughout the season,” said Virginia Painter of State Parks. “We will continue to manage the trail the way we have.”

Recently, though, concern was raised when someone posted unauthorized “No Trespassing” signs at various locations along the trail right-of-way. The board of directors of the local Klickitat Trail Conser-vancy (KTC ), which helps maintain the rail-banked railroad corridor as a public trail, was advised of the signs and soonafter contacted an attorney with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, KTC director Jim Minick said in a Monday e-mail to KTC members and supporters.

“Just as we thought, those persons placing the signs were acting against the law,” Minick wrote, and noted, “The State Parks ranger took the signs down within a matter of days.”

“As always,” Minick added, “The KTC Board is ever vigilant and ready to go into action to protect the Klickitat Trail from those who would attempt to abridge the public’s right to use the trail.”

Painter said State Parks does not plan to put up any informational signs on the trail to counter the negative impression left by the No Trespassing signs; however, park rangers will continue to remove any signs place within State Parks right-of-way.

Speculation has it that the people who erected the No Trespassing signs had misconstrued the ruling in a recent U.S. Supreme Court case titled the Marvin M. Brandt Revoc-able Trust, et al v. United States. On March 10, the Supreme Court issued an 8-1 majority decision in Brandt’s favor. Brandt challenged whether the federal government could retain an interest in a railroad right-of-way issued under the Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875 on property lying along the Medicine Bow Trail, a former rail corridor inside the Medicine Bow National Forest, in Wyoming.

The Supreme Court decision has raised questions in many states about underlying property rights on long-distance trails managed for public recreation. State Parks, in consultation with the Attorney General’s Office, has prepared in-formation that addresses the question on the five long-distance trails State Parks manage. The Klickitat Trail is one of those five.

Painter said the Brandt decision has no affect on State Parks’ public trail program because its unique set of circumstances do not apply to any of the agency’s properties.

“The Brandt case involved very narrow circumstances with non-rail-banked property,” Painter said. ”We reviewed the case because there had been some questions about our ownership, and concluded, ‘Here’s how the law affects us: It doesn’t.’”

According to a fact sheet prepared by State Parks, some State Parks-managed trails include railroad rights-of-way issued under the 1875 act. State Parks acquired three trails — the 130-mile Columbia Plateau (Cheney to Pasco), the 31-mile Klickitat Trail (Lyle to Warwick), and the 56-mile Willapa Hills (Chehalis to South Bend) — under separate federal rail-bank law. These trails are intended for use by hikers, cyclists, horseback riders, snow-shoers, cross-country skiers, and other non-motorized recreation enthusiasts.

A previous Supreme Court decision in Preseault v. Interstate Commerce Commission held that rail-banking of trails is a legitimate use of Congressional power, regardless of the type of right-of-way originally involved. “This confirms State Parks’ ownership of these trails,” Painter said.

The Klickitat Trail has been legally rain-banked since 1993. Rail-banking is the federal process of preserving former railway corridors for potential future railway service by converting them to multi-use trails in the interim.

State Parks’ ownership of two, non-rail-banked long-distance trails has been confirmed by other circumstances. The state acquired the 37-mile Spokane Centennial Trail (Nine Mile Falls to the Idaho border) in a land trade, which is considered equivalent to a purchase, Painter said.

A state Supreme Court decision arising from 1996 litigation confirmed the state’s acquisition of the 212-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail (North Bend to the Columbia River, and Lind to the Idaho border).

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