What’s a Trail Easement?
Good Trails Make Good Neighbors
Answers to your questions about trail easements
When you walk on a trail, you actually meet the people in your neighborhood. Knowing your neighbors helps create a better, safer community for everyone.
What Exactly Is a Trail Easement?
A pubic trail easement lets people use a trail to get across your property for recreational purposes. You still own the land that the trails on, and you still have all of the rights and responsibilities of an owner – what’s different is that you have legally given the public the right to use the trail.
Most trail easements also give the holder of the easement, for example Bear Yuba Land Trust, the right to build and maintain the trail.
The trail easement is formalized as a legal document and becomes part of the legal land description, just like a utility or road easement. It is recorded in the County’s Recorder’s Office.
Will I Be Liable if a Person Is Injured While Using the Trail on My Property?
The California recreational use statue provides strong, specific legal protection for any landowners who make their property accessible to the public for recreational purposes. This protection applies even if your property has natural hazards such as steep slopes and rough terrain, or manmade hazards such as water canals and bridges.
In addition, Bear Yuba Land Trust will name you as an additionally insured on its liability policy once the trail is constructed and in use.
Finally, Bear Yuba Land Trust has worked to improve safety on trails by installing signs, monitoring trails and performing regular maintenance.
What About Camping, Fires, Motorcycles and Other Things I Don’t Want on My Property?
The easement agreement will explicitly describe what can and can’t be done. A trail easement allows only for ingress and egress through the property. In other words, a person may only use the trail to get from one side of your property to the other, and nothing else.
If there is ever an issue with inappropriate usage, Bear Yuba Land Trust will work with you to address the problem (e.g., putting up warning signs or even building barricades or gates to prevent motorcycle access).
What Kind of Trail Will It Be? Are Dogs Allowed?
Our typical tail is a four feet wide dirt path, with gravel used only as needed to help stabilize the path. On occasion we build walkways and culverts or small bridges, but only if this is absolutely necessary.
Most of our trails allow dogs if kept on leash and under control. Trail signs will indicate where dogs are not allowed. Dog owners are responsible for cleaning up after their animals.
Who Maintains the Trail? What Happens if There is a Litter Problem?
Bear Yuba Land Trust has a dedicated trail coordinator who works with volunteers to keep our trails safe and clean.
We also have an “Adopt-a-Trail” program, where individuals, groups, or companies agree to be responsible for regularly monitoring and maintaining a section of a trail. All our current trails with easements have been adopted as part of this program.
Will a Trail Decrease My Property Value or Make the Property Harder to Sell?
No, typically not. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Several national surveys have shown that access to a community trail (one that is near houses) typically has a zero or slightly positive net impact on the value of a home, and makes it easier to sell. For example, in a 1994 survey of real estate agents near Denver, 73% believed that a home adjacent to a trail would be easier to sell and 82% used the trail as a selling point. Another study done in 1978 around Boulder, Colorado found that housing prices declined the farther away a house was from a greenbelt (a combination of trails and parks).
Will a Trail Increase the Risk of Crime? What About Trespassing, Drinking and Drugs?
No typically not. Four separate nationwide studies conducted between 1977 and 1997 concluded that trails do not increase crime. For example, the rate of vandalism and break-ins to property adjacent to the Seattle Burke-Gilman trail was well below the neighborhood average.
Bear Yuba Land Trust will actively work to resolve any trespass issues that may arise, typically by placing signs, but also installing fences when necessary.
Public trails also discourage drinking and drugs, because substance users don’t want to be seen by walkers, joggers and bicycle riders. Bear Yuba Land Trust will also work with local law enforcement and request additional patrols if problems are reported.
Can I Still Develop My Property?
Yes. You can build on, renovate, and landscape the areas of your property that are not covered by the trail easement. The land can still be subdivided or the lot split in accordance with current zoning and land division laws and regulations. The trail easement would remain a part of the deed to the property(ies) created through such a division.
For additional flexibility, the easement can be written to specify an entry and exit location, as well as an initial trail route. Then, if you need to have the trail moved in the future, Bear Yuba Land Trust will work with you to determine a viable new location.
Is the Easement Permanent?
Yes. Once a trail easement is recorded, it exists forever as part of the deed, even if you sell the property. This ensures that our gift will contribute to provide benefits to the community.
It also makes the donation of an easement a significant event, worthy of serious discussion with your family and/or advisors before the agreement is finalized.
Will It Cost Me Anything to Donate a Trail Easement?
Bear Yuba Land Trust will cover the cost of laying out the route, writing the legal description, preparing the easement papers, and recording the easement, as well as subsequent signage, maintenance, etc. There may be costs to you if you choose to consult with an attorney and/or a financial advisor regarding the easement.
What’s the Process for Donating an Easement?
Get in touch with Bear Yuba Land Trust to discuss your situation. Once the decision to donate an easement has been made the land trust will work with you to determine an appropriate location for the easement, survey it if necessary, write up the description and prepare the easement document. After you have approved the terms of the trail easement and signed and notarized the agreement, the land trust will have the document recorded with the relevant County.