Rail-to-Trail Conversion Was a Taking

Lawlor, James
July 2005
Planning;Jul2005, Vol. 71 Issue 7, p47
Trade Publication
This article reports that certain landowners are entitled to compensation under the Fifth Amendment for the conversion to a trail of a railroad right-of-way that runs through their properties, said the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Hash v. United States case. Robert and Gerlene Hash represent a class of about 200 Idaho landowners who claim that they own the land under 83 miles of recreational trail. The trail was created in 1995 under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, which allow certain abandoned railroad rights-of-way to be used as recreation trails so long as the rights-of-way have been identified for possible reactivation as a railroad in the future. The court found in favor of landowners who had owned their land before granting the rights-of-way to the railroad. It also found that the railroad owned some of the land outright. Notwithstanding the government's argument that national policy favors government ownership of land for environmental and conservation purposes, the property rights of the early landowners were governed by the law in effect at the time they acquired their land.


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