Friends of the Hastain Trail v. Coldwater Development, LLC

Facts: The public uses a fire road as a recreational hiking trail for many decades. The trail passes through private property and is operated by the local government as a temporary public easement. A more efficient fire road is later constructed and exclusively used to provide fire protection to the area but the public continues to use the original trail. A residential real estate developer purchases the underlying property and begins constructing homes near the trail, impeding recreational use.

Claim: A public advocacy group seeks to halt development near the trail, claiming an easement exists along the trail since the fire road was in continuous and notorious use by the public for a period exceeding five years, thus meeting the qualifications of an implied dedication for public use.

Counterclaim: The real estate developer claims the trail does not meet the standards for an implied dedication since the advocacy group did not present evidence of continuous and notorious use of the fire road.

Holding: A California Court of Appeals holds the trail was not dedicated by implication and the developer may continue with their construction since the original fire road was a conditional public easement necessary for so long as it was needed to help protect against fire and it was unforeseen the road would later be used as a trail by hikers. [Friends of the Hastain Trail v. Coldwater Development, LLC (July 27, 2016) __CA4th__]

Read the case text.