Minnesota Supreme Court rules in favor of rail-trail in landowner case

The Grand Forks Herald reports that the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a rail-trail in a case brought by adjoining landowners. The case is similar to one brought by Missouri landowners against the Katy Trail. In the case before the Missouri Supreme Court, the landowners won and will receive a cash payment because converting the rail line to trail usage was judged to be a "taking".

In Minnesota, with different laws in effect, the state court reached the opposite conclusion:

The Minnesota State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that 2 miles of former railroad beds along the Paul Bunyan State Trail belong to the state, not to private landowners.

The decision overturned a 2003 state Court of Appeals decision regarding a small stretch of the trail, which runs from the Brainerd area to Bemidji.

Trail advocates hailed the ruling as a victory for the state's 500 miles of railroad-turned-public-trails. But a key defendant vowed to bring the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. . . .

The DNR paid the Burlington Northern Railroad $1.5 million in 1991 for the rights of way to parts of the trail near Walker. When three landowners blockaded that part of the trail in 1998, the DNR sued.

In 2002, a Hubbard County district judge ruled in favor of the railroad. The state Court of Appeals ruled last year in favor of the landowners, who contended that deeds from 1898 said the railroad had an easement and that once the tracks were removed, the rights of way returned to landowners.