One of my favorite places to go and walk through nature is some property we own by the river. There used to be a bridge that my children had named the Dangerous Bridge, it was old with holes working their way though the floor so that you could look down as you drove across and see the river. To get to the bridge from one side, you went down a fairly steep hill, made a sharp turn that went up a steep short hill and then drove across the bridge. One of our memories of that bridge was trying to cross in the winter and not making it up the short steep hill. Somehow I got half turned around on the hill and had to have a neighbor get my van off the hill and drive it across for me. This was when cell phones were the size of bricks, but I did have one and my dad came to watch over what was going on.
Years after that incident, the county decided they needed to replace the bridge. Apparently there is a law/rule that says new bridges have to be able to be crossed at 55 miles per hour in the event of an emergency vehicle needing to cross. The consensus was that the bridge would need to move. The county proceeded to straighten the road and put in a new bridge that linked to where the road made another sharp turn on the other side. To do this they needed to cut through the middle of our field. The road commissioner and my parents made a deal with my parents thinking it was just for Right of Way through the field. My mother then placed a piece on the small side into a set aside program (CRP). This is where we are paid to not plant in that portion of the field.
Recently we noticed that the assessor’s office had changed our field on the small side to be listed as Right of Way. On their site it no longer showed our name for anyone looking up the land. The office claimed it’s still ours, just is marked as right of way for the county. Looking further into it we found that the county had included that land in the road right of way despite not being needed for the road. The official wording states that it will revert to us when it’s no longer needed for the road, which to me was right after the road was finished (or even always since they didn’t use that area).
That area is one of my favorites to walk through the woods. I also love getting in the river there and taking pictures of the sand banks. It’s amazing to me how much the river banks change over time with flooding, high water, and droughts all having substantial effects on the area. The field nearby floods frequently with wet spots and washes out crops. The bank on the CRP program side is all soft river sand when you approach the river. Animal tracks are everywhere.
With the land listed in such an odd way on the PVA site it’s difficult for people to look up our property lines. We frequently have trespassers coming onto our property to put canoes and kayaks in. I’m not sure having our property ownership clearly filled out would fix this, but it would make me feel more comfortable. The people coming onto our property frequently leave trash and destroy things. Most of what they are destroying is vegetation, but the trash is what really bothers me. Additionally, we face liability if anyone gets hurt on our property. I’ve ventured past to find whole families playing in the river coming through our property. When high the river can be especially dangerous, knowing that my own grandfather drown and was a strong swimmer makes me even more afraid for the young children taken to play in the river by unaware parents.
How to get our property back is difficult. Part of the issue with it being listed as Right of Way came about from lawyers not knowing the legal descriptions of the land. Now my parents past lawyer and even the current lawyer my mother was using has passed away leaving us to navigate the property laws on our own as we try to find another lawyer – which also comes down to why we should be faced with the legal costs because of this.
We are currently also facing issues with another property that fell under another issue with the state. The property has been in our hands since the early 70’s. When my parents first purchased it, they had a friendly agreement with the park – not to mention that the road through the woods on park ground had always been used to access the property. My father maintained the road and farmed some park property for the local state park to use to feed their animals. Now with my father gone and a new park manager, the park has decided to close off our access. We had discussions with the park and finally worked out that we can access our property for now. They are asking us to lease the road from them after they work out a lease. As things currently stand the agreement is in limbo and we are waiting for more information from them. This all came about when the park paid to repave the road back to some of their property and wanted to close off the road completely.