Guest Opinion: Respect private property

Thanks to John Darling for the informative and balanced article on public access to the TID Ditch Road Trail parking area.

The article also accurately illustrates that the initial reaction to a perceived threat on personal rights is usually one of vitriolic effrontery, without any consideration for the rights of the opposing party. Such a reaction, especially as manifested in a protracted and expensive legal action, does not serve the public interest in any kind of sustainable or reasonable manner. A more considered and reflective reaction would better serve the interests of the community and probably be more effective in maintaining access to a valuable resource.

Residential property owners own most of the TID trail and waterway on those sections adjacent to their property. Signs posted by the TID indicate this, which can be confirmed by calling them or visiting their website. There are sections of trail that have been annexed by both the TID and the city of Ashland, which seems to be the case here as indicated by Michael Black of Ashland Parks. In instances of private property ownership, the TID is granted access in perpetuity only for purposes of maintaining the waterway. Public access has been provided on these private property tracts as well as those owned by the TID at the behest of local residents.

I share this perspective and advocate public use of the TID trail since it provides a valuable service to community members, especially the elderly or persons with disabilities who benefit from the flat grade, which is rare in a hilly and forested park environment. However, such public access should be granted only if users are respectful of the property owners who reside in close proximity to the trail by adhering to the posted rules, such as those regarding litter, noise and dog leashing. These regulations can be found on trail signs as well as on the TID website.

Regardless of the outcome of a legal challenge as proposed by Sheri Morgan, it would further antagonize property owners who are concerned about unrestricted access and the effect it has on their quality of life, property value and potential liability. There have been legal actions regarding public access to the TID trail, but these have been initiated by property owners who have succeeded in closing large tracts to the public.

Morgan and her group should seriously consider contacting the property owner directly to work out an arrangement that might be satisfactory to both parties and help to dissuade property owners from initiating closures. A non-aggressive, person-to-person mediation would be more satisfying to all parties, and is decidedly more consistent with the community spirit of Ashland.

— Mark Irving lives in Ashland.

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