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Indiana Farm Bureau Steps Up Opposition to Rail-Trails

By Bob Carrico, Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc

Map of Indiana

The Indiana Farm Bureau (IFB) has long opposed preservation of abandoned railroad corridors in Indiana for purposes other than transportation. The Jan-Feb 1995 issue of Hoosier Farmer stated the IFB policy: "We are opposed to corridor-type park developments. They create problems of litter and trespassing to adjoining landowners."

  • Their policy fails to acknowledge that, while trails are not perfect, they have only a small fraction of the problems with litter and trespassing compared to another type of linear corridor: public highways. In 1995 the IFB announced that its board of directors had approved the expenditure of funds to pay legal costs of groups opposing rail-trails.

    IFB has not missed any opportunities to support anti-rail-trail legislation in the Indiana General Assembly in recent years. The absence of a state policy on abandoned railroad corridors had created legal uncertainties for railroad companies, trail advocates and adjacent landowners. IFB supported a 1995 bill designed to discourage preservation of abandoned railroad corridors. However, in many instances short-line railroads established on abandoned corridors have provided needed transportation for grain elevators and other agribusinesses.

    The General Assembly passed a combination of two bills dealing with railroad abandonments. It established a Transportation Corridor Planning Board to determine whether abandoned rail lines should be preserved for future use, and formed a Recreational Trails Program to provide funding and other support for the acquisition and construction of trails for public use.

    However, the new law presents some hurdles. It
  • requires a project authorization ordinance from each government jurisdiction the trail enters;
  • requires trail managers to pay for fences along trails at the request of adjacent landowners or pay the cash equivalent;
  • requires trail managers to post a performance bond to ensure compliance with the fencing provision.

    IFB actions against rail-trails have gone beyond legislative activity. In 1992 IFB supported a class action suit challenging Penn Central's title to abandoned rail corridors throughout Indiana. The suit is a broad brush attempt to block trail development on any of the abandoned lines.

    In July 1995 the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail asked a county court to clarify their title to an eight-mile section of rail line in Elkhart and La Grange Counties they had purchased from the Penn Central. IFB then retained lawyers in both Washington, D. C., and Indianapolis. They filed a motion to combine the Pumpkinvine case with the class action suit, even though the legal status of other Penn Central lines has no bearing on the Pumpkinvine. Trail advocates believe the IFB strategy is designed to delay rail-trail projects and exhaust the resources of sponsoring organizations.

    For more information contact Robert Carrico, 52829 Wildflower, Elkhart IN 46514.

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Indiana Rail-Trail Case

By the Associated Press

In March, 1996, landowners won a battle over a proposed 11.5 mile rail-trail in Monroe County. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the county's petition for a review of the case. The high court action lets stand a federal appeals court decision that returns railroad rights-of-way to adjacent property owners. The federal court overturned an Interstate Commerce Commission decision that allowed public use of the abandoned rail line.

In July, 1995, a judge ruled that a 12-mile railbed slated to become a trail in Montgomery County didn't belong to the nonprofit group that thought it had bought the land from Conrail. Montgomery Circuit Judge Thomas Milligan said the railroad never had the right to sell the ground. Under state law, ownership should have gone to adjacent property owners when rail use ended in 1982, he said.

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