Danville Express

Newsfront - April 6, 2007

Lark Lane 'trailhead' is private property

Hikers must use another access to Las Trampas Wilderness

by Natalie O'Neill

A bootleg trail entry leading from Lark Lane in Alamo to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Area cannot be made into a legitimate pedestrian easement, County Public Works staff said last week.

"It's essentially trespassing," said Senior Civil Engineer Eric Whan.

The trailhead is an informal entry that passes through private property and has been used by neighbors in a "don't ask, don't tell way," said Alamo R-7A Parks and Recreation committee members.

So when Alamo residents asked why sections of the trail entry had been overgrown, with no upkeep in years, the answer was simple.

"It was confirmed that it's not in our purview," R-7A committee member Marianne Sasso said.

Neighbors and nearby residents may have started using the trailhead due to development on Las Trampas Road, where a public trailhead exists but no parking is permitted. The makeshift entrance provides a shorter, flatter start-off trail that is closer to Danville Boulevard.

Grant deed information and county records show that a portion of the western end of Lark Lane is public roadway, but that it stops just south of the intersection of Lark Court - before the trail begins. The easement in question extends through the public portion onto private land, county reports conclude.

"The bottom line is that it violates various property rights," R-7A Chairman Steve Mick said.

In order for the county to maintain the trail and establish it for public use, rights must be purchased or donated by landowners. For the county to buy the land rights, an overwhelming greater public need for the trail would have to be shown.

This isn't likely, considering three other access points to Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Area exist at nearby Alamo locations including at Camille, Hemme and South avenues.

"At this point, I think the obstacles are too great," Whan said.

Based on the county study, staff recommended that the trail access remain private, wrote Hillary Heard of special districts in the report.

Donating property rights to the county shifts liability on to Contra Costa County, though few cases in American history have held property owners liable for non-violent, unintentional injuries to trespassers.

Property owners who wish to donate sections of their land along public trails or parks trails for community use can contact county public works at 313-2000.

Contact Natalie O'Neill at noneill@danvilleweekly.com


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