The idea sounds great. Take unused railroad corridors and convert them into recreational trails for the public to enjoy, while preserving a railroad’s right to reactivate the line in the future. Landowners adjacent to the trails, however, commonly do not find the idea so appealing. First, these landowners often have expectations – sometimes founded, sometimes not – of title to the land being vested with them after a railroad corridor is no longer in use. Second, many trails remain in an unkempt state while the responsible party (i.e. the trail group) develops a plan and obtains funding to develop the corridor into a trail. Third, once the trail is operational, adjacent landowners deal with the results of more human traffic next to their property, which can lead to increased litter, trespass and other crimes.
The Kansas Farm Bureau Legal Foundation has a new resource available on its website that informs landowners about trail groups’ statutory obligations of trail construction and maintenance, and also provides some practical information on what remedies are available if a trail group is not complying with their maintenance obligations. Click here to read the new rails-to-trails publication.