What Exactly Is a Trail Easement?
A trail easement allows people to use a trail to access private property for recreational purposes. Landowners still own the land that the trail is on and have all of the rights and responsibilities of an owner.
Most trail easements also give the holder of the easement 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.
BYLT will name you as an additionally insured on its liability policy once the trail is constructed and in use. Safety is improved on trails when signs are installed and when the trail is regularly monitored and maintained.
What About Camping, Fires, Motorcycles and Other Things I Don’t Want on My Property?
The easement agreement will explicitly describe the specific trail use- what is and isn’t allowed on the trail. 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, BYLT will work with you to address the problem (e.g., putting up warning signs or even building barricades or gates to prevent unauthorized use or access).
What Kind of Trail Will It Be? Are Dogs Allowed?
Our typical trail 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?
BYLT has a dedicated staff member 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).