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Moab property owners lose off-road vehicle suit

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 6:51 pm    Post subject: Moab property owners lose off-road vehicle suit Reply with quote

Moab property owners lose off-road vehicle suit
Wanted to close trail: A judge rules that a valid easement still exists
By Lisa Church
Special to The Tribune

MONTICELLO - A Moab couple lost their fight to block participants in the annual Easter Jeep Safari from using an off-road trail through land they own in San Juan County.
In a lawsuit filed in 7th District Court in Monticello, Kylie Miller and John Rzeczycki asked Judge Lyle Anderson to permanently close a short section of Strike Ravine - a rough and rocky backcountry trail that crosses their 160-acre property 14 miles southeast of Moab.
Last April, the couple lost an attempt to close Strike Ravine to Jeep Safari participants.
A week later, Rzeczycki was injured during a confrontation with off-road drivers on another trail adjacent to the couple's property.
Rzeczycki said he was intentionally run over, but the driver, who was not a Jeep Safari participant, said Rzeczycki jumped in front of her Jeep and a front tire slipped off a rock onto his foot. The driver said a friend of the couple threatened her with a pipe during the incident.
When the couple purchased the land from the state Schools and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) in 2003, officials told them the property carried no recorded easements, according to court testimony Monday.
The Redrock 4-Wheelers and San Juan County claim that a temporary easement exists on Strike Ravine because of ongoing public use of the trail.
"The legislation clearly intended that these roads remain open to the public," said Paul Mortensen, attorney for the off-road group. "We clearly are entitled to a temporary right-of-way."
Attorney Steve Russell said the property owners do not dispute prior use of the trail, but he argued that because SITLA had required the Red Rock 4-Wheelers to obtain a permit, pay fees, and follow specific guidelines in order to use the trail, the club holds no valid right-of-way claim.
"The Red Rock 4-Wheelers did not acquire a right to conduct this week-long commercial
event on Strike Ravine," Russell said Monday.
He said any request for a temporary or permanent right-of-way based on the 1992 state law must have been filed while the state still owned the land.
In issuing his ruling, Anderson called the language of the state law "awful," and said SITLA "has no ability to sell a property minus this temporary easement because it is a vested right."
"If there was a temporary easement or right-of-way, that was not extinguished in the sale and it remains in effect," Anderson said. "And it will remain in effect until [a permanent easement] is paid for."
He said Miller and Rzeczycki "may have a claim for a refund" against SITLA "if they can establish that they paid for this property with the understanding there was no easement."
Outside court, Russell called the ruling "bewildering."
"It combines elements that are illogical and impossible," he said. "The Red Rock 4-Wheelers, which formerly had to obtain and pay for a permit from SITLA to travel the Strike Ravine during Jeep Safari, are now entitled to do so without a permit."
David Adams, a representative of the off-road group, said club members had hoped to resolve the dispute without legal action.
"I wish it hadn't come to this, that we could have worked out something," he said. "But I think the judge ruled it right. We're happy to work with [Miller and Rzeczycki] as much as possible."
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