Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison is done waiting for county officials to resolve a long-running dispute over access to a neighborhood trail that connects the city with the Grand Vu Park subdivision.
The mayor said he wants to force the county to address ongoing concerns about public access and reports of trespassers on private properties near the blocked-off San Miguel Trail.
“I’ve made the suggestion … that either the county completes the damn trail, or else we shut it down,” Sakrison told the Moab City Council on April 14.
An Eagle Scout built the nonmotorized trail and bridge behind Cinema Court Apartments in 2009, and up until 2011, pedestrians and bicyclists used the route across Pack Creek as an alternative to heavily traveled roads in the neighborhood.
In 2011, however, a county-hired surveyor issued a disputed report which found that two property owners at the end of San Miguel Street owned a narrow strip of land near the mouth of the trail. The property owners subsequently built a fence that cuts off access through the San Miguel cul-de-sac, and Moab Community Development Director David Olsen has said that some trail users started to trespass onto nearby private property to veer around the impediment.
The dispute over ownership of a tiny piece of land near the trail’s outlet has been simmering since last summer. But Sakrison brought it back to the forefront in response to reports of trespassers in the Pack Creek area behind Cinema Court.
“We’ve had several complaints about people going across the bridge and then walking in all directions through people’s back yards, private property, the whole nine yards,” he said.
The last that San Miguel resident Drew Roots had heard, trail proponents are no longer interested in reopening the pathway through his property. Instead, he said, they want to run the access point through his neighbor Ginger Shuey’s property, which also sits at the end of the San Miguel cul-de-sac.
The mayor, however, is in no mood to sit around as the dispute continues.
“It needs to come to a head,” he told the Moab Sun News. “I’m really concerned about the people whose rights are being violated … If we’ve created an ‘attractive nuisance,’ then we need to deal with it.”
Moab City Council member Heila Ershadi said she’s spoken with several property owners who reported “really significant” invasions of their privacy.
One resident whose property sits near Pack Creek told Ershadi she’s been dealing with trespassers for some time now.
“She didn’t indicate that it had been particularly bad recently,” Ershadi said. “It’s just been an ongoing issue.”
Another resident who lives about a third of a mile beyond the disputed trail area said that she, too, is affected by stray trail users.
“She was having problems with people coming up in her yard and just sort of wandering around there,” Ershadi said.
As the mayor works to resolve the issue, he can expect support from Grand County Council vice chair Chris Baird and Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald.
Baird dealt with the issue during a previous stint on the council, and now that he’s back on the board, he’s receptive to the mayor’s calls for immediate action.
“To me, it seems like we’ve gotten to the point where we need to just go over there and open it up,” he said April 15.
Baird plans to discuss the county’s options with Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine; Fitzgerald thinks that a call to the Grand County Sheriff’s Office could clear the way for county officials to reopen the trail.
“A previous (county) council voted to go in and get it done,” he said. “So that’s still a valid directive.”
While the county-hired surveyor found that two “waste” parcels at the end of San Miguel Street belong to Shuey and Roots, Fitzgerald does not agree with the surveyor’s legal conclusions.
He maintains that the developers of the Grand Vu Park subdivision created public easements to potentially extend roads or other infrastructure in the future.
Regardless of the surveyor’s conclusions, Fitzgerald said that the county must have access to a nearby property it acquired at a tax sale, which is only accessible via the disputed section of the trail.
“The State of Utah will not allow that property to waste by being cut off,” Fitzgerald said. “(County officials) can put a road in there if they want, and likely, a court would agree with them.”
Baird thinks the county’s ownership of that property near Pack Creek guarantees public access through an opening at the end of the cul-de-sac.
“The county has a bona fide piece of land that they would have access to anyway,” he said. “They can’t have landlocked land.”
Baird ultimately sees the trail as a valuable asset to residents in the community, including his own family, who live in the Grand Vu Park area.
It’s the most practical alternative to heavily traveled routes along Holyoak Lane, Mill Creek Drive and other busy streets in the area, he said.
“To me, it’s mostly a safety issue,” he added.
Moab City Council member Kirstin Peterson agrees that the trail could improve connections between the city and the subdivision.
“Ideally, it is a valuable source of transportation for that entire neighborhood to get from there into town without having to go down the highway,” she said.
Peterson sounds willing to exert some force on the county council.
“Whatever we can do to put pressure on the county to take action,” she told the city council.
Sakrison wants to address the issue during a joint city and county council meeting.
The date? Friday, May 1, or May Day.
“That’s very appropriate,” he said.
Blocked-off San Miguel Trail behind Cinema Court Apartments was used by pedestrians and bicyclists
It needs to come to a head. I’m really concerned about the people whose rights are being violated … If we’ve created an ‘attractive nuisance,’ then we need to deal with it.