CALCUTTA - Members of the Moore Road Horse Association attended Tuesday's St. Clair Township Township Trustee's meeting to inform trustees that someone is placing sharpened stakes on the right-of-way they use to access Beaver Creek State Park on horseback.
Laura Bramel, vice president of the Moore Road Horse Association, thanked trustees for having the County Engineer's Office conduct a survey in January which marked the boundaries of an undeveloped township right-of-way that stretches from the west end of Moore Road to Bell School Road. However, Bramel said the survey results also brought about unforeseen ramifications.
The survey showed that a section of the right-of-way that horseback riders must traverse had migrated onto private property according to Bramel. A culvert happens to be in this particular section of the right-of-way that horse association members use to cross a creek, she explained. Without access to the culvert, riders must ride up through the creek bed in order to avoid trespassing.
Near this alternate route Bramel says she discovered several sharpened stakes protruding from the ground along with "no trespassing" signs.
"Were a horse to slip or a rider to fall, they would be impaled on something kind of nasty," said Bramel.
She speculated that the property owners who border the right-of-way are responsible for the stakes and signs and claimed they have made other attempts to block the right-of-way in the past.
Bramel told trustees she tutors young riders using the right-of-way and her husband, Charles Bramel, uses the right-of-way to ride with wounded veterans for the Wounded Warrior Project.
She concluded that having a culvert over the stream would keep riders off of private property and offers a safer route to the park for novice or disabled riders.
"To try to ride by things like that (stakes) is beyond what you should ask of anybody," said Bramel.
The Bramels say they have conducted exhaustive research to find an alternate route to the park since their use of the right-of-way between Moore and Bell School roads had sparked animosity between the horse association and their neighbors.
The Bramels claim that, by searching public records, they discovered another right-of-way that stretches north between Moore and Ware roads. They refer to it as the "north fork" of Moore Road.
Laura Bramel challenged a statement made by trustees that this strip of land is private property and claimed that due process had not been followed in reaching this the decision.
"Someone made a statement that said it is private property, but there's been no due process on it," said Laura Bramel. "There's been no vacation, the lawyer hasn't made a legal determination, a judge hasn't made a legal decision and nothing has been done in writing,"
The Bramels asked that trustees rescind their determination of the "north fork" as private property and allow due process to take to its course.
They also criticized trustees for a reluctance to comment on the situation and said the horse associations members were not being treated fairly.
Trustees reiterated that they had fulfilled their obligation by requesting the survey and would have no further involvement in the controversy.
Trustee chairman Robert Swickard told the Bramels that county engineers had been unable to find anything that showed the north fork to be anything but private property.
"It wasn't making a determination of what it is - they couldn't find anything to the contrary," said Swickard.
Still, Charles Bramel repeatedly asked trustees to rescind the statement that the "north fork" of Moore Road is a private property because township police were treating it as private property.
"The chief has taken a stand based on what you said in that meeting, allegedly," said Bramel. "It's back in your court."
Charles Bramel told trustees that if they would make a determination on the "north fork," the issue would have to be settled in court.
"We got to get in court some way or another because everyone's dancing around this and no one is making a decision," said Bramel.
In other business:
*Trustees approved 8.18 miles of township roadway to be included in the county chip and seal program. Roads to be included in the program this year are Birch, Echo Dell, Ware, Bell School roads, Violet Place and Weber Lane.
*Trustees approved 7.85 miles of township roadway to be included the county line striping program. Roads included in the program are Birch, Echo Dell, Bell School, Westfield roads.
* Trustees approved a township mileage certificate for ODOT. Trustees certified 70.41 miles of road in the township.