Protecting Bridle Trails
What is the City's Role in Preserving or Maintaining these Trails?
The question of how the City deals with the equestrian trails in Bridle Trails comes up in two contexts, first in connection with development proposals on property subject to an easement, and second in connection with complaints made about trail blockages, trail surfacing, or other conditions on trails. Trail blockages include fences, vegetation, and other structural elements constructed within the easement area that make the easement impassable by horses. A blockage does not exist when a fence, vegetation or other structure encroaches into the easement area but does not actually impede passage by a horse within the easement width. In order to determine whether an encroachment into the easement area constitutes a blockage requiring removal, we will consider the City's multi-use trail standards, which generally require a 10 foot clearance (height) and 8 foot tread (width).
In the first context (development review), land use review staff in PCD consistently review for the presence of an equestrian trail easement by reviewing the approved plat. If the plat shows an easement, either public or private, the City will not approve development within that easement area. This is true regardless of whether the trail has been developed or not. There has been litigation surrounding the validity of some private, undeveloped easements, and in the case where a court has found the easement extinguished, the City will follow the court decision. This treatment of public and private easements is consistent with treatment of other types of easements in the review process. In the context of development review, the City neither recognizes nor prohibits development within "social" trails. This development review practice should continue.
In the second context (complaints), the response to complaints depends on the type of trail involved, and the historic use and condition of the trail. The table below summarizes the response to complaints about each kind of trail existing in Bridle Trails:
Generally, the underlying property owner has the right to use an easement area in any manner that is not inconsistent with the granted easement. As a result, when the City takes action to remove blockages or affect surface material, the scope of the corrective action required should be narrowly focused so that the property owner's underlying rights are not impacted. The scope of the work required will depend in large part on what the complaining party is able to establish were the previously existing conditions, and on the conditions needed to ensure effective use of the easement by horses.
Process to Respond to Complaint:
The following outlines the steps that generally should be taken when complaints are received about trail conditions:
• Staff receiving the complaint or question should forward the complaining party to the City's code compliance office (not necessary if complaint received directly by department that is responsible for maintaining the trail as part of the City's existing trail network);
• Code compliance officer and legal planner will review plat to confirm existence and nature (public or private) of easement. The public or private nature of the trail will depend on the specific language set forth in each plat;
• Review existing inventory map to confirm nature of the easement and consult with other departments as needed to confirm accuracy of map and conclusion;
• If a developed or undeveloped private trail:
--inform complaining party that the City does not enforce such easements, and advise them to consult with an attorney if they want to proceed privately
• If a public trail maintained by the City under existing maintenance programs:
--coordinate a City response, including what work, if any, is needed
• If a developed public trail, but not maintained by the City under existing maintenance programs:
--review on the ground conditions (this may require a survey of the easement location and other evidence, all to be provided at complaining party's expense, to establish the location of the trail, confirm that it is used, and nature and extent of blockage);
--for City to get involved in requiring removal, blockage must actually impede passage over the trail, not merely encroach into the trail area;
--If blockage is demonstrated, initiate enforcement action
•If an undeveloped public trail:
--consult with appropriate City departments to determine future of trail, including opening by the City or vacation of the trail.
Please contact me if you have any questions about this approach to equestrian easements in Bridle Trails.
Cc: Matt Terry, Director, PCD
Patrick Foran, Director, Parks
Brad Miyake, Director, Utilities
Goran Sparrman, Director, Transportation
Lori Riordan, Acting City Attorney
Carol Helland, Assistant Director, Land Use Division
Chapter 2, Page 2
Richard Andrews, City of Bellevue Attorney – Mr. Andrews did not treat opposing parties of a neighborhood dispute which involved a public right of way in a equal and fair manner. He knew Kimbrough was not producing the correct information to the courts but chose to stay silent. In 1996 Mr. Andrews told Kimbrough the City was an easement owner of the trails in Compton Green. Kimbrough did not disclose this to the court because all attorneys know you cannot extinguish a governments interest in an easement and the governments interest is the public's interest. Mr. Andrews can go to Compton Green anytime he wants and walk all the trails. He is not a private owner of the trails. He can walk the trails because the trails are public trails and cannot be taken by adverse possession or extinguished through some mechanism of the CC&R’s of Compton Green. Kimbrough and Mr. Andrews, both attorneys, worked with each other.
Mr. Andrews – Why did you not come forth and tell the Courts in 1996 that the Compton Green trail easements were dedicated properly and that the City was one of the grantees to the easements? You told Kimbrough that but did not tell the other party in the dispute. Your silence in 1996 cost a member of the public to incur large legal expenses which were unnecessary. Do you not feel a responsibility for the damage you caused with your silence? As a public official and especially an attorney, also responsible to a duty of the Rules of Professional Conduct, don’t you think it’s important to treat all parties in a legal dispute equally and fairly? You did not do that in 1996 when you withheld vital information from one of the parties. You did not protect the City of Bellevue interests' in public property and trail easements.
Chapter 3, Page 1
1998 and King County Judge George Finkle
Judge George Finkle was the presiding Judge of King County Court case #96-2-20375-1-SEA, a Complaint for Quiet Title.
Ken Hart – Plaintiff attorney – Representing Richard & Jan Brunhaver, Mark & Louisa Davis, Peter & Pauline Schock, Mir & Lynn Hajmiragha and Don & Marlene Meiser. Plaintiffs did not want anyone to use bridle trail easements in their back yards. Filed a lawsuit against another homeowner who wanted to use the bridle trail easement. Hart hid the LAW from Judge Finkle and did not disclose to Judge Finkle that Hart and Kimbrough knew the City of Bellevue had taken a position that the trail easements in question were also dedicated to the City of Bellevue. Hart and Kimbrough knew that if Judge Finkle knew this information, that Judge Finkle could not have extinguished the easement against the City of Bellevue.
Charles Kimbrough – A homeowner in Compton Green with a closed bridle trail easement in his back yard. Represented Homeowners' Association by taking over board illegally and in violation of State Law 64.38. With his friends and assisting them to violate State Law, the association by-laws he hid the LAW from Judge Finkle and failed to tell Judge Finkle that he was told by Mr. Andrews of the City of Bellevue that the City was a grantee of the trail easements in dispute..
Mark Davidson/ Mark Schedler – Attorneys from Williams Kastner & Gibbs. Representing defendants who also were homeowners in Compton Green. Ultimately, Mark Davidson did the representation and did a horrible job. All he was interested in was $$$$$$$$$$$$$ in billing. He would not listen to his client's wishes and desires to argue before the court that the bridle trail easements were public easements. Davidson FAILED to identify the LAWS that pertained to the easements in question. It was quite simple. How was the plat development regulated? What was required by platting law? What did State Law say about dedications? The plat was required to have public right of ways and Davidson never made that argument. Davidson failed to do the most elementary of research to protect his clients.
The plaintiffs alleged that certain trail easements which had not been used for at least two years were extinguished and were no longer available to use.
Judge Finkle had the option to help preserve the Bridle Trail infrastructure by deciding with the preservation defendants or help to destroy the Bridle Trails character by deciding in favor of the plaintiffs. Judge Finkle ruled in favor of the plaintiffs to help destroy the infrastructure of the trail system but he did so only because he was not given the proper information from the attorneys before him. All the attorneys hid information and the LAW from Judge Finkle.
Although it would seem Judge Finkle was required to follow and enforce the “LAW” it is very apparent he was never informed of the “LAW” regarding the creation and platting of the trail easements. None of the attorneys, plaintiffs or defendants, before Judge Finkle briefed Judge Finkle correctly on the “LAW." Judge Finkle was never told that King County required the public trail easements because of plat regulation law and that by the recording of the plat that the trail easements became public property.
Judge Finkle never heard that:
1. King County Resolution 11048 was governing law when the plat of Compton Green was platted. KC Res. 11048 required the plat the size of Compton Green to have public trail right of ways which allowed access to schools, parks and residential lots. KC 11048 stated: Notice to developers, all dedications are absolute and no reservations whatsoever are allowed in the plat. This meant once the developer made the dedication he could not legally take it back or remove it from the plat.
2. That long standing State case law, Burkhard v. Bowen, does not allow adverse possession of right of ways within a recorded plat by the owners of those properties. Other words, everyone owning property within the same plat cannot take each others rights to the right of ways. It only makes real logical sense.
3. Judge Finkle was never informed of RCW 58.08.015 which stated that any donation of land on a plat was considered to be a proper dedication of land to individuals, corporations or the public and shall be considered as a quit claim deed to the said donee or donees, grantees, for his or her or their use, for the purposes intended by the donor, donors, grantor or grantors.
4. Judge Finkle was not made aware of RCW 7.48 and RCW 9.66, the public nuisance laws of Washington. A public nuisance of obstructing a private or public right of way is a crime against the order and economy of the state and is a misdemeanor.
Judge Finkle and his family can come to Compton Green and walk all the trails. He is not a local property owner. So why would he have the right to walk the local trails? It’s because the trails in Compton Green are public trails just as the roads throughout the neighborhood are public roads. Judge Finkle's decision took public property away from the public and gave it to private property owners. That violates the Washington State Constitution.
City of Bellevue Code Enforcement
Jim Gough, department head, email@example.com
Jim Gough is not equestrian friendly.
Robin Zambrowsky, firstname.lastname@example.org
Raj Johal, email@example.com
BRIDLE TRAILS POSSE
The Bridle Trails Posse is forming to keep public trail easements in Bridle Trails from closing. Requirements; Horse and saddle or the willingness as a pedestrian to protect the trails that were given to the public. The mission is to reopen closed trails throughout Bridle Trails and to make sure those who obstruct the trail easements know that Bridle Trails as a community does not support any activity which obstructs the full use of those public right of way trails. It’s time to act now to protect the future of Bridle Trails.