OFBF engaged in Stark County rails-to-trails case

Ohio Farm Bureau is helping members protect their landowner rights by becoming involved in a rails-to-trails court case.

A Stark County Farm Bureau family is challenging a park district’s attempts to convert former railroad property into a trail. The Dickerhoof family says it has been farming the land in question since the 1970s and that it owns the property under the legal definition of adverse possession (exclusive possession of the land for at least 21 years). The Stark County Park District disagrees, saying it bought the former railroad property and can use the land to put in a trail. The 5th District Court of Appeals is now hearing the case after the Dickerhoof family appealed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the park district.

Ohio Farm Bureau and Stark County Farm Bureau have filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, supporting the Dickerhoof’s adverse possession claim. Citing a recent Ohio Supreme Court case it was involved with, Farm Bureau also argued that the intention of the property deed was that the land only be used for railroad purposes and if it was no longer used for that, then it should revert to adjacent owners.

“Former railroad lines often slice through a farmer’s land, and are often nearly impossible to rejoin with the residual land. Long after the railroad has left the land behind, a farmer must deal with railroad waste, drainage issues, fencing and the trespassers that these lands seem to attract. For these reasons, Ohio Farm Bureau policy strongly advocates that abandoned railroad lands should return to the underlying owner, either through a sale with right of first refusal or reversionary interest,” Farm Bureau wrote in its brief.

Next up is oral arguments in the case before the court issues a ruling.

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