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Landowners Seek Payment For Property Used In Rail Trail

Milwaukee Trailway

More than 75 landowners are seeking compensation from the federal government for land that’s being turned into a 19-mile long trail from Bedford to Crane.

The Indiana Trails Fund is building a trail from Bedford to Crane along what used to be a railroad corridor. The Milwaukee Road Transportation Trailway goes through 175 landowners' private property, so the federal government has taken that land through eminent domain.

Thor Hearne, a partner with the Washington-D.C. law firm Arent Fox, is representing some of those landowners who are now suing to receive payment for that land.

“Public trails when they are well constructed, well maintained and managed by a responsible public entity like a Department of Natural Resources or a park department, can be a great public amenity, and we entirely support that. But when you take one person’s property to use for the benefit of the community at large, you need to compensate that owner and that’s what the constitution requires.

Hearne says other landowners could still join the lawsuit before Dec. 29.

Representatives from the Indiana Trails Fund say the lawsuit should not slow down the construction of the trail, though, because construction will be allowed to move forward before the lawsuit is settled, which is expected to take about two years.

“In Southern Indiana, there aren’t many other trails that are 19-miles long,” Richard Vonnegut, President of the Indiana Trails Fund, says, noting the health and community benefits the Milwaukee Road Transportation Trailway will bring to the area.

So far, five miles of the trail have been built in the Bedford area. It will still be a few years before the rest is complete.

The rail trail is facing another lawsuit, in which landowners are asking the Indiana Trails Fund to build fencing along the edges of the trail. Vonnegut says his group is currently weighing the costs of doing so.

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