Craig Diamond: Cascade Canal Trail and a family’s right to privacy
Craig A. Diamond
The rights of the property owner to privacy and respect should not be ignored. There is an ongoing concern that opening the trails to the public endangers those rights.
While most on the trail might be cooperative and respectful, it only takes one bad actor to devastate a family. The rights to privacy and the peaceful enjoyment of one’s home should not be lightly abdicated. The government in 1972 recognized that by assuring that this type of uncompensated taking could not accrue after that date. The “Friends of Banner Mountain” have found a loophole and are now compelling that imposition on other homeowners without regard to their ownership or rights.
Balance is important.
The Davises are a young family of five with three daughters: 9-year-old twins and a 6-year-old. Their property on Gracie Road in Nevada City has been in their family for three generations. Their property is perfect for their two dogs and the pigs and goats they’ll get when their daughters join FFA.
First, it’s important to understand, the Davis gates did not deny anyone access to the Cascade Canal Trail. The official Bear Yuba Land Trust trailhead is about 700 feet below their property. The land trust trailhead is clearly marked on maps, and has its own parking lot. The Davises praise the people from the land trust who have done things right by obtaining proper easements and land donations before they created the public trail that runs along the bottom of the Davis property.
The area nearest the Davis property access does not have the accommodations afforded by the Bear Yuba Land Trust trailhead. One has to hop a curb and block the vision of approaching motorists around the corner at that intersection in order to park nearby the Davis entry.
Still, the Friends of Banner persisted, and relying on the now statutorily-rescinded rule, exercised a claimed easement from before 1972; when according to some, the primary use of the trail was for hunting and fishing, before either of the Davises were even born, and before many of the homes were built in that area.
Before Mr. Davis erected his gates, his family had been harassed and victimized. People walked into their front yard to use the workers’ porta-potty. Some people stole construction tools. There was also vandalism.
Sometimes, men have stood along the NID easement and stared down at their house. When asked what they were doing, they said they were watching the little Davis girls. That’s chilling, and nothing any parent should have to hear. Do they have to keep their girls inside their home to protect them from lurkers? Along the NID easement, people can see right down into their little girls’ playroom. Do the Davises have to keep the curtains drawn all the time, just so walkers can have an additional 800 feet on a 4.1 mile trail? That is what this was all about.
People have taken their dogs off-leash and set them free. The dogs run amok on the Davis property, fighting with their own dogs and chasing their girls. One of their daughters has battled cancer. She’s had so many surgeries and so much chemotherapy on one leg that if a dog were to jump on her and inflict further damage, doctors say she’d have to have her leg amputated.
Drunk teenagers have partied along the NID canal above the Davis house and yelled down abusively at Mrs. Davis and her daughters. Some people have started campfires along the ditch above their house. This is a high danger fire zone and those fires could easily get out of control.
One day, a woman grabbed Mr. Davis’s hunting dog’s shock collar, took it off, and threw it in the canal. She said she was justified because she thought the collar was inhumane. Lest we forget the number of blue plastic bags filled with dog excrement that have been left along the canal and even in the canal.
The Davises have had to install a perimeter fence to keep walkers and their dogs from trespassing on their private property, however, they couldn’t fence their entire property because NID workers need access along the canal to perform maintenance. Gates were installed to allow NID access, but people have tried to destroy the gates by repeatedly kicking them. Recently, someone dismantled one of the gates, took out the bolts, and threw the gate in the ditch.
Who in our community wants to be confronted by such nuisances, all in the name of 800 feet of trail, (about 10 percent of the entire trail) with another access very close by?
Faced with the specter of being held responsible for over $100,000 in attorneys’ fees claimed by the Friends of Banner, an exposure that by statute only inures to the benefit of the Friends of Banner, the resolution of this matter included the easement, the retention of the gate, albeit unlocked, and signs asking that the privacy and property of the Davises be respected.
It would be wonderful if our community could do that for our neighbors.
Craig A. Diamond is a Grass Valley attorney who represents the Davis family.
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