SALTSBURG: Dispute arises over access to trail
December 03, 2013 10:50 AM
by ELLEN MATIS
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A dispute has arisen over the ownership of a property located next to the West Penn Trail in Saltsburg.

Ron Rey owns the property according to borough officials. Police Chief Gary Walker said Rey has records to show ownership; Saltsburg Borough also has records to prove ownership of the land.

When two Saltsburg residents tried to take their daily walk down the West Penn Trail on Monday, they were surprised to find that they couldn’t.

The trail’s entrance across from River Hall on Route 286 has been blocked by tape and, according to Rosaire Newhouse, six or eight no-trespassing signs. The residents attended a borough council meeting Monday night to air their concerns.

The borough did not place the signs.

“We were stunned to see we couldn’t walk the trail that we walk every day,” Newhouse said.

She also said that the trail’s signs have been covered up.

In addition, Newhouse reported that a power utility pole has been put on the property recently and the parking lot that serves as a place for visitors of the veterans’ memorial and trail users to park has been taken over. No-parking signs have been put up in the lot.

“The portion that he has blocked off is about 20 feet,” said Borough Council President P.J. Hruska. “This is the only entrance to that part of the trail.”

Rey, who is living in a camper on the property, feels that he’s a property owner, Hruska said at Monday’s meeting. Borough officials, in turn, believe the municipality owns the property. Rey pays taxes on the portion of the property that he owns, which does not include the West Penn Trail, borough officials said.

“He does own property down there, above the trail,” Hruska said. “He also feels he owns below the trail, and we feel he does not. It’s difficult because it goes back to Pennsylvania Railroad right of ways and easements. It’s all in interpretation.

“We have to litigate and find out exactly who owns the property,” Hruska said. The council reported that it would be in contact with their attorney today.

Rey could not be reached for comment at press time today.

Previously, the council had considered a transfer of the property to the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy. This is still a possibility.

“What they’ve asked us for is: They would like to have the property and I personally feel it’s in our best interest to go ahead and give them that piece down there that we feel we own,” Hruska said. “They do all the work down there and they’re willing to fight this battle with (Rey).”

Jack Maguire, representing the CVC, said that he “encourages” the council to move forward with the transfer. Once it is transferred, the CVC will have legal justification to evict Rey from the property.

Maguire explained that the CVC maintains the West Penn Trail through an easement on Saltsburg Borough’s property. The easement is on the ground in question, he said.

If the CVC were to obtain the property, Maguire said, there’s going to be legal action taken to evict him from the property.

“If that doesn’t happen,” he said, “we have an easement, so that gives us some legal rights to take action before we even own the property.”

Because both parties involved supposedly have records to prove they own this piece of land, legal action cannot be taken to remove Rey from the property, Walker said.

“It is going to be litigated. It would be faulty to enter into that before there’s a determination,” Walker said.

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