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Allegheny Land Trust

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Long & winding trailEdit

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 in Valley News Dispatch
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/s_564897.html

We urge the state Supreme Court to act quickly on an appeal involving the Armstrong Rails-to-Trails.

Last June, the Superior Court reversed a visiting county judge's ruling that landowners still maintained rights to the former rail line.

Allegheny Valley Land Trust, a nonprofit organization, has converted more than 30 miles of former rail lines into a trail from the Schenley section of Gilpin Township north along the Allegheny River to Clarion County.

Over 10 years, the group bought some sections of the trail and has acquired rights-of-way in other areas.

Conrail sold its rights-of-way to the land trust -- and the Superior Court last year ruled that the sale constituted "railbanking," which gives authority over the trail to the trust.

But the landowners disagree, arguing Conrail had abandoned the rail line, instead, so the land should have reverted to the original property owners.

Many of these same legal arguments were heard over the Butler-Freeport Community Trail along Buffalo Creek. That case was in the courts for 10 years. The state Supreme Court finally ruled in 2003 that Buffalo Township officials properly bought and built the trail. And that 20-mile trail is a wonderful recreational resource for area residents.

Congress in the early 1990s passed a law allowing former railroad lines to be bought for hiking and biking trails.

But there have always been questions about individual property rights and whether the unused lines were abandoned by the railroad companies under state and federal laws.

We need to get these long-fought legal issues settled so everyone in Armstrong County can move on.

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