Concerns aired about network of trails through private property
One trail, called White Rock, begins just below the Country Club's lower parking lot and heads along the Cosumnes River toward the Yellow Bridge.
An extensive trails network created by a group of community volunteers is fueling trespassing concerns at the same time the group is seeking approval from landowners and local authorities for the trails, which are being developed on private properties without official oversight or owner permission.
The trail construction began in the 1990s, headed by Murietan Roger Brandt, known by many for his volunteer work cleaning up debris dumped in the community’s open areas. The group says there are now 12 miles of trails, with another three to six miles planned, and it has 30 volunteers.
The trails are narrow paths that wind through areas of great natural beauty, including stretches along the Cosumnes River that have been designated by the county as a resource protection area. These trails go beyond trails planned as part of the community's development process.
The ongoing creation of the trails has been an open secret in the community for more than a decade, though no one complained publicly until recently. In the last year or two, Brandt and others have led trail tours for community organizations and begun circulating a trails map.
Brandt and his group, called the Murieta Trail Stewardship, recently submitted a 33-page document outlining the trails effort to the Rancho Murieta Association, the Community Services District and the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers, the largest owner of undeveloped land in Murieta North.
The document asks for cooperation to create a “timeless, lasting trail system in our community for recreational opportunities and economic stimulus.” (Read the complete document.)
But Murietan John Sullivan, who is involved in area development, has concerns about property rights on land to be developed inside Rancho Murieta and people walking and biking into ranches to the east. He said all of the owners of undeveloped land and adjoining ranches are concerned.
“The real problem is that at some point in time, the bike-riding group -- I think it’s around 40 people -- and the Roger (Brandt) group and his minions that are helping do what they do -- there’s going to have to be an eyeball-to-eyeball, face-to-face, because nobody wants to escalate it out of control,” he told a CSD workshop last month.
Trails maps issued by the Murieta Trail Stewardship. Click the maps to see larger images.
“It’s got the potential for anarchy written all over it, and that’s the wrong thing to have happen here. We had one kid life-flighted out of here being off the trails from a bike accident and it’s inevitable there’s going to be more injuries. RMA and CSD, like it or not, are directly and indirectly involved.”
He said some of the people trespassing are from outside Murieta.
Although he said landowners would push for arrests only as a last resort, Sullivan added, “It’s going to take a long time to get it back under a semblance of control. I don’t think you’re ever going to completely control it. You’re just going to get it within bounds, reasonable bounds.”
Among his property interests, Sullivan heads a group of investors negotiating to buy the Pension Trust Fund property in Rancho Murieta, where many of the trails have been built.
At the CSD meeting, Sullivan and others spoke of “prescriptive easements,” a legal term that refers to an owner being forced to accept an easement on land after continued public use without permission.
Speaking for the trails group was Mark Pecotich, a South resident who lists that he’s a retired mountain bike racer and a certified trail builder among his qualifications.
"For over 20 years those trails have been being built by different residents...” he said in a telephone interview. “What was occurring was, as they continue to get larger and larger and larger, we came forward to Pension Trust Fund and said to them, OK, here's this plan we want to share with you because we want to have a dialogue about it. … Over the years, the Pension Trust Fund was aware of what was happening out there and residents' use of the land. But now there's an opportunity to try to talk to them fuller about, really, an economic opportunity a trail system represents for a community.”
In 2006, Brandt asked the CSD’s help to replace a footbridge he had built as part of the trail system. He spoke openly of the trails at a CSD board meeting and shared photos of the small footbridge that had been removed. At a later committee meeting, the CSD backed away from the request, saying it was PTF property, not community property, and the CSD’s cooperation would create liability issues for the district.
Another trail features stone steps to a bench with a river view and a back shaped like a salmon.
PTF representatives did not return several phone calls for this story. Brandt asked that the group’s board speak for the effort.
In the interview, Pecotich acknowledged the hikers and bikers are on private property.
"We fully understand and we completely appreciate the fact that we've been able to go out and use those lands, that the hundreds of people that use them every day are all committing trespassing, every one of them,” he said. “And that's the unfortunate thing that's never really been communicated to our community about what the rules and rights of use of that land. … That's why we're trying to take the time now to do the due diligence, to have the open dialogue with people like John Sullivan, with the Pension Trust Fund ... as well to talk about the road ahead."
Pecotich said the trespass issues at nearby ranches weren’t caused by people associated with his group. “That’s just people that are uneducated about where Rancho Murieta ends and where the ranchers’ land begins,” he said.
Pecotich is one of the Murietans listed on the board of Murieta Trail Stewardship. The others are Brandt, Bob Summersett, Pete Faeth, Jason Zenker and John Weatherford.
- Resident’s trail near dam raises liability issues (March 2, 2006)
- Forum thread: Thank you Roger Brandt! (May 1, 2010)
- ‘No trespassing’ signs are an effort to address nighttime partying (Oct. 20, 2010)
These trails are truly one of the treasures of RM-I think anyone complaining about them is just an alarmist. I spend several days a week walking my dog on these trails and they are a wonderful addittion to our community. This group is to be commended for what it has done !
I think the trails that wind through RM are fantastic and the folks that have been maintaining them all this time should be thanked for doing such a great job. The land along the river and lakes has been used for years for hiking and biking and this unobtrusive system of trails makes it much safer and enjoyable. It's great that people with a common love of the outdoors got together to clear and maintain these trails for all to enjoy with no expectation of praise, profit, or personal gain. Thank you trail builders, and everyone else, that volunteers to make RM an even better place to live.
I am friends with Roger and was shocked when he told me about John Sullivans comments about the amazing trails that we all are so lucky to now have. To know that we can take a hike in our own backyard and see some of the spectacular treasures that surround our community, without having to get in our car is awesome. My husband and I are proud to be considered part of Rogers minions, since we have helped him several times, and of course have walked every trail that has been done.
I would like to remind John that if you go to a state or federal park in our beautiful country, there are designated trails for people to walk on so that the least amount of land will be damaged as possible. This is what these trails are accomplishing here as well. It keeps people on the trails...not wondering around all over.
Lastly, all of these trails has encouraged people who normally don't get out and exercise to do so, and enjoy the lakes and rivers that we are so lucky to live right in the middle of. Kind of a shame that this is an issue at all.
It's unbelievable to me that someone would chose to complain about Roger Brandt and his volunteer efforts. The trails are gorgeous, a huge amount of work and a labor of love. They are also an enourmous asset to Rancho Murieta. Whatever the issues are here - I urge Mr Sullivan to address them privately and with respect. The use of the word "minions" to describe the people who have tirelessly cleared dumped trash and done incalcuable good for our community? I certainly hope this does not turn into a case of "no good deed goes unpunished". Obviously there is a lot of behind the scenes story here. I very much hope it doesn't play out publicly. It would be an embarrassment and I doubt it will move anyone's agenda forward.
How sad to see an article about these beautiful trails and labor of love written in such a disparaging way. Is Mr. Sullivan suggesting that he does not want residents using the open space? Roger and the team have done a beautiful job of cleaning up and turning what was once neglected dumping space, into beautiful walking and riding trails. I would think this would add value to this land. Because these areas are now used by caring citizens, they are less often used by those seeking hideaways to do drugs and leave their alcohol bottles. I find it so very sad that this grievance was aired in such an open and mean spirited manner.
I do understand the legal issues, but this is just such a tacky approach from a *big man* in response to such a wonderful thing volunteers have been doing for the community for years. I'd prefer to think he's saying it because some advisor told him he had to, but I don't think that's the case. It's not like Roger Brandt and his volunteers kept what they were doing a secret. It seems he could have approached them quietly with some sort of use agreement reach with any potential purchasers that could be put in place until the land is actually developed *in the next millenium*. But I guess he can't really do that because he doesn't own the property yet, right? Strange when I'm without words, but I am. At least ones I can use here.
Mr. Sullivan, Why? For you to come out at this late date contesting the superb effortsof Mr. Brandt and his group on the years of unselfish work they have done on the Trails benefitting all Murietans, seems suspicious. Its an open "secret" you represent a local buyer of the remaining McMorgan/PTF properties and RMCC here, which has been touted for about a year as happening "any day now for the good of all Murietans". What do you stand to gain in this transaction, and what are that buyer's plans for those properties which "will benefit all Murietans"? In marketing, the best strategy is just to come clean.
Resident and developer representative, Sullivan, wants to have his neighbors arrested? But only as a "last resort." Seriously?
Heads up: All the public reports, filed with the California State Department of Real Estate, that came with the sale of each home on the North and early homes on the south, give residents access rights to cross PTF undeveloped land.
Per my request, over the last couple of years, DRE has contacted PTF/McMorgan twice about our access rights. My understanding is, Mcmorgan reps told DRE, they knew citizens had rights to cross their land, that the No Trespassig signs they erected were mererly for insurance purposes (God forbid a fire, etc) and they didn't really mean to intimidate citizens from walking across their land. Huh?
I contacted both, again, yesterday.
BTW, I agree with the poster on RM.com, even if the land sale does go through, nothing will be constructed in this millinneum. In the meantime, a few folks merely walking through undeveloped property isn't hurting anyone.
Candy 955 2027
I wish I'd known about them sooner. We've been dying for walking trails and waiting for them. It's obvious the only one complaining has financial gains at stake trying to sell off land.
We advertise as being a beautiful community with open spaces. This is making those open spaces an asset to our community and our future. Please keep them going!
John, if you ever you own the land I'll be more interested in your opinion then
until then you're just intermeddling.
ALL Murietans own recorded easement rights to cross those back lands to get to lakes and rivers. It's part of our land title and carved out of PTF's land title.
there is not an inch of that trail system that cannot be used en route to a lake or a river.
let me know when you and PTF want to charge me with trespassing, so we can test your theories. IF PTF has the stomach for such a fight. which i seriously doubt.
until then quit trying to intimidate your neighbors from exercising their rights. come back when you own what you're trying to control.
Thanks, Wilbur. However, I thought I should clarify my posts.
I think it's worth saying the following: I did not intend to suggest the rights to access the property included altering the acreage in any fashion. Nor does it include the right to hang out on the property. It is merely a Public Report document that gives homeowners the right to pass through the PTF undeveloped land.
So, if folks (no matter how good their intent) are changing the actual acreage--not including picking up trash--or feel they have the right to have a picnic on the land, etc, they really need to get permission from the land owner--which is still PTF.
And I'm told, even if the land ownership ever changes hands (through Sullivan's representation or someone elses) the access rights for residents to travel through the property will run with the land, as long as it remains undeveloped.
candy Chand 955 2027
Wow John, who died and made you Scrooge?!?
I haven't been on the trails yet but would love to. It would be great if there were some scheduled walks/hikes like the Sac Valley Conservancy does, I'd sign up for sure.
I just wanted to thank Roger and Mark and all of the others who work on the trails. They are so nice and really add to the community. The trails and open space are the main reasons that we live out in Rancho Murieta. We run and bike on them regularly and hike with our kids. These trails will add equity to our homes. Having a personal trail system is a big selling point for some people.
If the open land gets developed eventually, it would be a big shame. Rancho Murieta would lose a lot of its appeal.. If that land turns into suburbs, the trails would actually help the developer sell those homes.
Trails and the outdoors are so important for all residents. Roger and the Murieta Trail Stewardship has made the outdoors more accesible to all. Thanks again!
These trails are used by walkers, runners, and cyclists and are absolutely gorgeous. The trails that have been made and the benches that have been added have been done in a beautiful and naturally appearing manner. The benches Roger has added overlooking the river, etc. provide a place to sit and enjoy breathtaking views of our 'backyard'. When State and National Parks Depts are cutting back to bare bones to provide for and maintain improvements such as these, we are getting them provided by volunteers in RM. Amazing. Isn't this providing a positive impact on our property values when little else is these days? Thank you Roger and Team.
Is anyone really surprised by any of this coming from the "representative"? It kind of reminds me of all of the secrecy around the supposed purchase of the CC and all of the undeveloped land owned by the PTF. I for one have no trust in this "group" of buyers. This trails are just another issue. As Candy so stated, the land in question will not be developed for decades is ever at all.
This is a fine example of what we minions can possibly expect at the Country Club if this purschase ever is completed.