Back in May, we took a look at the misguided efforts of some nearby homeowners to exclude the public from a Monterey trail that’s been in use for longer than anyone can remember.
Efforts to reach a settlement failed and the matter went to trial before a Superior Court referee (Retired Justice Nat Agliano) in January. This week the referee issued his tentative decision. The referee agreed with the City of Monterey that the public has a right to use the trails on the parcel in question (Parcel B), then went beyond what the City had asked and found that the public has a right of recreational use covering the entire parcel. As the City was prepared to settle for considerably less, we imagine the homeowners are sorely regretting their insistence on pushing the matter to trial.
In any event, it’s a major victory for the public that upholds the original intent behind the dedication of Parcel B as open space (which occurred when adjoining land was subdivided back in the ‘80s – as described in our previous post).
Here’s some of what the referee had to say:
Substantial evidence establishes that for more than 30 years before 1972, various and diverse members of the general public, including visitors and users of Veterans and Quarry Parks, local residents and their families and friends, openly and continuously used those trails for travel, hiking, dog-walking, jogging, bicycling and general exercise. Neighborhood children crossed the parcel and its trails to walk to and from Walter Colton school. The public users never sought permission, believing Parcel B was part of adjoining City parks. The owners of Parcel B never objected or interfered with such use of Parcel B, and inferably acquiesced in the public’s use of the trails for the described purposes. The referee concludes, based on the above facts, that the above-described trails have thus been dedicated to public use.
…. In addition to the described use of Parcel B’s trails, the evidence establishes that various and diverse members of the public likewise used all of Parcel B for recreational purposes including hiking, camping, exploring, and general outdoor enjoyment. Children considered the parcel their playground. They built forts, played games, rode and jumped bicycles throughout the parcel. Members of the public walked their dogs there, allowing them to roam unleashed throughout the Parcel. Virtually all users of Parcel B and its trails reasonably believed that the City owned or controlled Parcel B and that the Parcel was part of Veterans Park and Quarry Park. As in the case of the trails, the public never sought permission and the owners of Parcel B never objected or interfered with the public’s use.
… Historically, the public’s use of the trails has been joined to its use of the entire parcel. Moreover, since City is herein authorized to bring this action on behalf of the public, it necessarily represents all public users. Accordingly, the referee finds that the whole of Parcel B has been dedicated to public use and that the public has acquired a recreational easement over the entire parcel.
To read more, and for links to the full text of the decision, visit the Save the Trail website.