National Association of Reversionary Property Owners

 Double click the blue above for a primer on railroad rights of way issues.


Property Rights Advocates and

Property Owner's Rights on the Rails to Trails Issues

This Web Page is brought to you by Dick Welsh, the executive director of NARPO. NARPO's address: 1100 Bellevue Way N.E. Ste. 8A PMB 719, Bellevue, WA 98004 --- Due to ongoing virus problems, NARPO will not open any e-mail unless the subject line contains any of the following words: rail trail, trails, or property rights. NARPO's E-mail address is:

NARPO is a non-profit, tax exempt foundation dedicated to principles that private property ownership must be maintained in the hands of citizens and not the government. NARPO's major goal is to assist property owners in maintaining their complete land ownership and resisting government confiscation. We hope to keep you up to date on the latest court cases and federal and state law changes that effect the property rights of reversionary property owners to railroad rights-of-way. Feel free to browse and leave an e-mail message at the end of the page.


Updated May 31, 2022

NARPO's Railroad Right of Way Primer on Railroad Easements and Reversionary Rights

NARPO has available  600 plus pages that are media articles about trail crime and other trail problems. We now have most of the articles on a flash disc for easier mailing although because of a surge in trail crime the past two years, 100 of the newest articles have not been put on disc at this time. E-mail NARPO -- for your copy, and remember to put the correct words (rails to trails or property rights) in the subject line or NARPO will not open the e-mail due to virus problems.

Site Index--page down to choice

The Latest News on Rails To Trails (RTC)

Trail Crime Statistics

Class Action Lawsuit Information

Ongoing Issues & Technical Papers

Court Cases on Rails To Trails Issues

Congressional Testimony on RTC Issues




June 15, 2020--The U. S. Supreme Court came down today with the decision in United States Forest Service et al. v. Cowpasture River Preservation Association et al. The case was about what constituted an easement for a right of way. The U.S. Forest Service had granted a right of way for a pipeline through part of the Appalachian Trail land. The anti-property rights groups challenged the pipeline right of way grant.  The Supreme Court said the right of way for the original Appalachian Trail was only for the surface of the land; not the subsurface where the pipeline would be built, and the U.S. Forest Service still controlled the subsurface, not the National Park Service.  This decision impacts how rail trails are built as the Supreme Court said that right of way easements are for the surface only and the rest of the land is not impacted by the easement.  The Supreme Court also said that the underlying land owner could use the easement if it did not impact the easement holder's use.  You can see the case at
December 5, 2019--The STB released their Decision on EP-749-1 which was NARPO's Request for Rulemaking on the length of Interim Trail Use (NITU) negotiation time limits.  The STB ruled that there would be a maximum of three (3) one year extensions to the original one year NITU which is what NARPO had requested.  Also the STB ruled that any extension of the NITU past the total of four years would only be done for EXTRAORDINARY reasons.  The STB mentioned some reasons that would not be considered extraordinary. This decision by the STB is a good compromise for all property owners who own land adjacent to a railroad right of way. If you want to read the STB decision, go to" " and arrow down to the December 4 decisions and click on the highlighted .pdf file at the right hand side of the EP 749-1 decision line.  If you have any questions on this decision, contact NARPO at . A direct link to the STB decision is below.  The STB did allow a Transition Rule that would allow one additional year of a NITU past the four total years of the NITU for what the STB calls a FAIR Transistion.

July 30,1019--This is NARPO's Rebuttal to the STB proposed rulemaking on NITU extensions. Rebuttal.pdf

June 7, 2019--The STB  approved the NARPO proposed rulemaking that would limit the number of NITU extensions to a three year maximum of time.  This is an improvement over the unlimited number of NITU extensions the STB has allowed in the past.  You can see the rulemaking at the STB web site under "Decisions" on June 7th.

December 15, 2018  Evidently the U.S. Court of Claims has settled with a number of property owners on a rail trail case along Lake Sammamish in Washington State.  It appears many property owners got over $500,000 each for their 80 foot of railroad right of way through their properties. The 12 mile rail trail will end up costing the U.S. taxpayers over $150 million.  Another rail trail on another lake in the vicinity has cost the U.S. taxpayers over $200 million so far with more coming. Who said rail trails were cheap?

 December 2, 2018   The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has closed the rulemaking about limiting the number of NITU extensions that can be issued by the STB. We anticipate that the STB will take a few months to digest the many responses by both sides of the NITU issue. You can access the STB site at On the top line click on ELibrary. Then click on Filings if you want to look at the Filings for the day or any previous Filings before the STB.  You can also look at the day’s Decisions by the STB by clicking on Decisions on the top line.

 10-1-2018   The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has instituted a formal rulemaking, EP 749-1, on limiting the number of NITU extensions allowed by trail groups trying to use the Federal Rails To Trails Act to acquire an abandoned railroad right of way for a trail.  This is the first positive step NARPO has been able to get the STB to budge off of their previous 30 years of  decisions for trails groups. We have until November 1 to submit comments on EP 749-1to the STB.  You can access the STB site at On the top line click on ELibrary. Then click on Filings and all the previous filings will be listed by date; you can arrow down and read the comments on EP 749-1 by clicking on the name under each listing for EP 749-1. Both pro and con for the rulemaking are listed so you can see what the trail zealots are saying.  You can make your own comment by clicking on EFiling on the top line, then fill out the form and write in your comments in the comments box and click Submit. You can email NARPO at:  if you have any questions.

 February 1, 2018--A letter to the editor titled The Dark Side of Trails. Dark Side of Trails.docx


August 1, 2017 Here is a video done in Ithaca, New York by a group of property owners fighting a rail trail through their properties.

6/1/2017—Here is another property rights web site about bike trails.

5/27/2015—The U.S. Claims Court just released a rails to trails compensation claim settlement with 127 property owners along a railroad right of way in Washington State near Bellevue. The settlement with the federal government was for $137 million or about $500,000 for each 80 foot of property. Plus $33 million for attorney fees. Who said the rails to trails scheme would not cost much! There is another settlement due in a few months on another right of way near Bellevue that will probably settle for much more money as those homes are on a lake and the right of way is between the homes and the beaches. If this type of nonsense riles you, then complain to your US Senator or Congressperson. Here is the URL to read about this settlement.

3/6/2014—The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in the case Brandt v. United States that the federal government does not have any interest in abandoned railroad rights of way in lands that the federal government patented years ago.  This is a case where the little guy stood up to the US Attorney General who wanted to take land back the government sold or patented over 100 years ago. See the Supreme Court  decision below which is in line with NARPO’s brief.

12/7/2013—Below is a National Law Journal article about the myth of the Rails To Trails movement

10/4/2013—Click on the link below to see a Law Journal article about the fallacies of the federal rails to trails act.

**This is a study done over a 35 year period on property values on adjacent homes and property to a rail trail found here
This will be in Word 6.0 for Windows format. Read this and use it when you have to show elected officials how rails trails will affect your property values. For a color graph of this property value disparity on the Burke-Gilman Trail click here  You will need Adobe Reader to read and download this chart.

1/16/2013—Here is a pdf file that was written by an appraiser who does appraisals for property owners along abandoned railroad rights of way. Property Rights Kielisch.pdf

1/1/2013—This article was written in 2004 but is very pertinent today for property owners subject to a possible rail trail.

2/10/2012-Here is an article NARPO wrote 15 years ago and it is still pertinent today.

2/17/2-10—Click on this URL to see how New Jersey is wasting $23 million Stimulus money on a bike trail it appears only a few zealots want. Read he comments at the bottom of the article.  They are hilarious. 

2/10/2010—Click the link to see a letter to the editor of Orchard Park, New York, near Buffalo.

And you can also view the written comments at:

The video of the hearing is over 3 hours long. The NARPO portion comes in around 1 ½ hour into the video. On August 7th, NARPO submitted additional comments and suggestions for new regulations to address property owners problems and concerns of how the STB administers the rails to Trails program.

7/10/2009--If you want to search the internet about trail crimes, go to and type in “bike trail crime” in the query box and then hit enter. About 2 million articles will come up. Some are duplicates. Some are gruesome!

8/4/2008--Here is an article about a Seattle bike trail costing $9 million a mile to put on a flat surface already prepared. This is another example of a liberal government gone amok with taxpayer’s dollars.

8/8/2008--This is a web site on property rights from Florida. A couple of the recent cases cited are very instructive for property owners fighting for their rights.

4/28/2008  This is not a Rails to Trails case, but it shows you can beat the government at their own game. Jax Jury Awards Land Owner $67 Million    
Occasionally, true justice prevails. In past editions, CPR has highlighted the highly aggressive eminent domain actions of the Jacksonville Port Authority. The agency appears to have no compunction in using eminent domain whenever they believe doing so will enrich their agency's coffers.

This week, a jury may have done what public and even national media criticism could not.  In returning a $67 million award to Keystone Coal company owner, Tom Scholl, a small panel of ordinary citizens may have finally "checked" JaxPort's appetite. This verdict may represent the largest eminent domain jury award ever levied in Florida circuit courts.  Since 2006, Scholl has battled for his right to keep and use his land: 70-acres of prime real estate along the St. Johns River which includes deep water frontage and direct railroad access.

Scholl bought the property from another private owner, after both he and JaxPort lost a competitive bidding opportunity. He had intended to develop it into a large-scale coal/bulk cargo terminal and spent several million dollars preparing the site for its future use. Despite these facts, JaxPort officials continued to market the property and negotiate with other more preferred end users. Their targets even included another larger coal company. Undaunted in their quest for his land, the Port filed a formal condemnation action just a few months prior to Florida's eminent domain reforms taking effect.  JaxPort's actions were so egregious this case was featured in a special segment of the Hannity & Colmes show.

However, because their filing preceded the effective date of the new state laws which now prohibit transfers and leases to private owners, a judge ruled in the Port's favor and allowed the agency to proceed with this unconscionable taking.  Thankfully, Florida's eminent domain process has several components. While a judge can rule on the permissibility of a government agency to take land for public purposes, compensation is decided by citizen juries. The review of property valuations by ordinary citizens provides a vital safety net for Florida property owners, as both elected and appointed judges have the potential to be influenced by political pressures. In pre-trial proceedings, for example, a local judge ruled Scholl's attorney could not introduce one of the most important pieces of evidence pertaining to the property's potential value:  a memo from JaxPort indicating they were negotiating to lease the property for $11 million per year to one of Scholl's competitors, Drummond Coal. This document was a work product of a public agency openly disputing the value of this land and should have been welcomed by the court. However, even without this information, the jury was not fooled. They were diligent in their review of other key facts and recognized the property's global market value far exceeded the Port's suspiciously-low valuation of the property at $17 million.

Because this condemnation was filed as a "slow take," JaxPort's Board now has a final opportunity to consider whether or not the cost of seizing Mr. Scholl's property is too high, or they could decide to let him keep his land.  Either way this ultimately plays out, it is a great victory for property rights!  Florida land owners should join the Scholl family in celebrating. After several years of victimization and being burdened by unnecessary stress and costly litigation which he and his family did not seek out, justice has prevailed!

Congratulations to attorneys Andrew Brigham, Jackson Bowman and Mark Natirboff of Brigham Moore law firm and to real estate appraiser Heyward Cantrell for capably "making the case" in this landmark valuation trial!

CPR commentary on this case was featured in the Jacksonville Times Union article, "Jury Verdict Could Foil Port's Coal Site Plan." For full text:

 **September 1, 2007- This is a quote by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Mary Peters. She told the media that 10 percents of federal gas tax is being spent on bike trails. She is 100 percent correct as the Transportation Enhancement Fund is mostly spent on bike trails, and the Enhancement Fund is 10 percent of the federal gas tax.   Quote there's about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current [transportation] spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related like bike paths or trails. End Quote  U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Aug. 15, 2007

This exchange between Jim Lehrer and Mary Peters came about because some in Congress want to increase the gas tax to pay for bad bridges like the one in Minneapolis that fell down. Mary Peters want to take the 10 percent Enhancement funds and pay for the bridges. What a novel Idea!!!

**March 1, 2007-The Surface Transportation Board (STB) which regulates railroads and trail use has moved and their phones numbers have all changed.  The new main number is 202-245-0245.  The STB General Counsel is 202-245-0262.  Other STB phone numbers can be found on the STB web site:   The new address for the STB is 395 E Street, Washington, DC  20423.

**November 4, 2006-Bicyclists are always painted as such nice folks.  See this NY Times articles for another view.

**October 24, 2006-This story is by a bicycle group about the benefits of riding on roads versus trails.

**October 15, 2006-This is an article about how trail users are not the eco-friendly they make themselves out to be.

**August 24, 2006-See this link

to see how crowded some trails are and how dangerous they can be to life!

**February 13, 2006--Here is a great federal site for finding copies of the land patent the government issued for your property. Click here and click on the upper tab “Search Documents”. Then type in your state, county, section, township and range, and it spits out all the patents for that section of land. You can either get copies directly from the site or order them from the site. This is great info for those trying to prove they own the underlying title to the right of way especially if you are in the west and have government grant rights of way in the area.

**January 1, 2006--An article about how the bike folks were pushing for a bad trail. Click here

**7/20/2005 The link below is the testimony to Congress of Chuck Cushman executive director of the American Land Rights Association, he has wonderful examples of trails gone amok because of the National Trails Act. As he points out about how trails mutate, first the trail advocates claim that only the "willing" landowners will be expected to host a trail.  Then the trail folks get impatient, which is quickly followed by eminent domain.   They and their government agencies have all the power, while lonely landowners are left to fend for themselves. here

**4/4/05 Another very good court decision just came down for property owners on government grant rights of way.  A very definitive decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit says that property owners owning land abutting railroad rights of way where the right of way was granted to a railroad by the government, the right of way belongs to the abutting property owner. And if a rail trail has been put on the right of way after railroad abandonment, then the abutting property owner is due just compensation. This case is cited as: Hash v. U.S. 403 F.3d 1308 (2005). If any property owner fits into this category, then they can use this decision to get their just compensation for having a trail through their property. You might want to call either Richard Stephens in the western states at 425-453-6206 or Nels Ackerson in Washington, D.C., at 202-833-8833.

**1/15/05 To see a good form letter for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request click here. This form letter is geared toward a request to a federal agency, but it can be adopted for a FOIA request from any government entity. Any time you are involved with a controversy with a government entity, you need to know what they have been doing and what their plans are. The best way to get to see their files is with a FOIA request. Best of all, if the entity denies your request or doesn’t answer in the proper time, you are entitled to daily damages and attorney fees. This form letter came from the Property Rights Foundation of America,

**8/7/04 Here is an article about Union Pacific Railroad taking improper tax deductions for railroad rights of way going to trails from the New York Times. You will have to sign in with the New York Times to see the article. Click here then register with email and password.

**7/20/04 A New Property Value Study by the City of Portland, OR., that shows owning land near or next to a trail or park devalues your property

The City of Portland, OR. paid for this study to see if their regulations and spending were worthwhile from a fiscal standpoint. Living next to a trail was worse than living next to a cemetery for devaluation of your property’s worth. Anyone living next to one of these trails already knew this fact, but it took a distinguished college professor to do an in-depth study to show how trails devalue property next to or near a trail (or cemetery). NARPO’s property value study (which is listed near the top of this web page) from 1977 through 2013 showed the same result. Contact NARPO for a copy of this study as the City of Portland deleted it from their web site when they figured out it was detrimental to their issues. NARPO has a copy of this click this link  

**A study on the false economic assumptions of trails--Download here this study
and show it to your local governments who are trying to push through a trail
and justify the trail by its economics. This file is in .pdf format and
Adobe Acrobat Reader is necessary to read the study. You can download a copy
of Adobe Acrobat Reader here

**June 1, 2003, Two California property owners get $360,000 rails to trails settlement from Federal government--The federal government paid $360,000 to two California property owners for a 600 foot piece of property taken by a rails to trails project. Pretty pricey trail at 600 dollars a foot; of course paid for by unknowing U.S. taxpayers. See the court results in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims web site- As of June 9, the two cases were not posted on the web site. They are Case No. 00-508 L and No. 01-107 L. The Court of Claims  phone number is: 202-219-9657

**3/10/03 Great win for Mass., property owners--The Mass., Supreme Court ruled that the railroad did not own fee title to the right of way, and the land belonged to the abutting property owners. For the text of the Court decision click here

The following is courtesy of Mountain States Legal Foundation of Denver, CO.
On May 22, 2002, the U.S.Court of Federal Claims ordered
the United States to pay J. Paul and Patricia Preseault of
Burlington, Vermont for the unconstitutional taking of
their property, that is, without paying for it. The United
States was ordered to pay: $234,000, plus interest from the
February 5, 1986 date of the taking, for a total of
$551,931.30; and $894,855.60 in attorneys' fees. The United
States will be writing a check for $1,446,786.90!

The National Archives located in College Park, Maryland has all the original
railroad right-of-way identification maps the railroads were required to file in
1913. These maps, sometimes called Plat or Evaluation maps, show how
every railroad in America acquired their rights-of-way. The maps list who
the railroads acquired the land from, the type of conveyance of the
deed, and where the deed copy is stored in county records across the country.
The National Archive's phone number is: 301-713-7250. The maps are
stored in Record Group 134 in the civil reference branch. Mr. Dave
Pfieffer and Joe Schwatz are the most knowledgeable about the maps
although age and retirement may have caught up to these gentlemen.
The maps are five feet by three feet and usually cover one or more
sections of land. You will need to know what railroad was using the land
in 1913 and what section township and range your property is located. There are
thousands of maps in the National Archive's possession. There is an index of
the maps which narrows down the search so it only takes a few minutes to find
the correct map. The College Park campus can be reached from the Washington,
DC., office via a bus from the DC National Archives office. Security is very
tight at the College Park campus so be prepared to be fingerprinted. The index legends, or land acquisition records are held at the College Park Facility within the Textual Records Division. Archivist – Cartographic Section

National Archives and Records Administration

(P) 301-837-2036  (F) 301-837-3622 ( Map Citation Requests )

This is a very good law review article and can be seen by searching law review articles.
The official citation is: Emily Drumm, Addressing the Flaws of the
Rails-to-Trails Act, 8 KAN. J.L.PUB.POL'Y 158 (1999). The publication is available in most law school libraries and on WestLaw and Lexis or Google it.


NARPO's testimony before the Rail Subcommittee of the U.S. House
Transportation Committee on Sept. 18, 1996 here'

Due to ongoing virus problems, NARPO will not open any e-mail unless the subject line contains any of the following words: rail trail, trails, or property rights. You can leave me a message by e-mail at mailto: