Thursday, October 18, 2012

Centenary road easement a bone of contention

An area of picturesque Cooper's Crossing at Delmar Ranch Road
(click the image for a larger view)
Threatened lawsuit prompts hearing of the aggrieved parties

Waco – The age-old subject of exclusive rights to fish public streams in the British Isles and on the blood-spattered plains of Europe reared its ugly head in McLennan County Commissioners Court Tuesday.

Residents of newly built homes along Delmar Ranch Road have threatened litigation to force Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry to abandon a road easement said to be more than 100 years old that leads across the Bosque River from a China Springs neighborhood to the Delmar Ranch.

Washed-out portion of right-of-way
(click the image for a larger view)
The low water bridge there washed out in a 1991 flood. It was never reopened.

Mr. Perry reportedly told area newsmen he is concerned that defending the defunct road easement in court might seriously deplete his contingency fund to keep roads and bridges in good repair.

Numerous citizens spoke to the issue Tuesday morning as rhetoric regarding the exotic legal concept of “prescriptive” easements, answering knocks at the door with a gun, and dead rattlesnakes in the mailbox filled the air.

A real estate agent named Cynthia Moore Murry said “There's a difference between a prescriptive easement and a road easement,” as Acting County Judge Scott Felton remonstrated with her. He claimed a concern with time constraints and directed her to seek redress with the help of a competent counsel in a Court of Law.

She claimed that there are no public road easements recorded in land records and surveys of her property, or her neighbors'. Everyone owns their acreage “to the middle of the river,” she said, as the judge may be heard to protest in the background of the official audio recording.

A Mr. Derrel Luce said visitors to the river deposit trash – including dirty diapers – and knock on his door at all hours of the night. “I answer my door with a gun,” he declared, adding that he once found a dead rattlesnake in his mailbox. “I don't think the postman put it there.”
A personal injury attorney named Bob Hanley urged the Court to consider keeping the right of way open. He said that a public use statute would indemnify the County from any claims.

A representative for a local club of fly fishing enthusiasts, John Maddox, said that signage declaring the area a wildlife or wilderness area should put the public on notice that they are on their own and should exercise caution. “I'm not advocating a paved road down to the river's edge,” he said.

If the right of way is closed, said Mr. Maddox, there will be no public access to the river for ten to twelve miles.

Both men urged the Court to hold its November 13 hearing after work hours so people who could not ordinarily attend a Tuesday morning session may participate.

Ms. Sallie Jo McLennan Truhlar, whose great great grandfather settled the area in 1871, said “new people” who moved to the Coopers Crossing area both in China Springs and on the Highway 6 side of the river at the Delmar Ranch knew when they moved there that many people would be coming and going. She alleged that former County Commissioner Ray Meadows “admitted” it was an illegal act when he closed the road following the 1991 flood.

Many other people joined her in those sentiments, all of whom said they have been visiting the area all their lives and now take their grandchildren there for recreation.

Perfection of the issue of a prescriptive easement involves a user whose trespass is truly adverse to the rights of the landowner of the property, something that takes place throughout the statute of limitations of the particular state in which the dispute may arise.

According to a legal briefing paper on the subject, “If the use is too infrequent for a reasonable landowner to bother protesting, the continuity requirement will probably not be satisfied.”

One may hear selections from the official audio recording here:


  1. well hard to argue anything when a Canadian Company is laying pipe from Canada to Mexico and taking land willy nilly...bastids.

  2. Like a bastid, as they say at the Fulton Fish Market. Ain't it awful when Papa and his cronies go bankrupt? Get no respect, and that proves it, Jackiesue. The Golden Rule is operative and with us - always. "He who has the gold, makes the rules," etc.

    But, like the fella said, "Be nice to the people you meet on the way up; they're also the people you meet on the way down." Tally Ho! The Fox. Film at eleven. - The Legendary