Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

May 8, 2013

Trails dispute sparks lawsuit

Farmers, trails group remain at odds

The Friends of the Nickel Plate Trail received a rude surprise in March,when someone clear cut brush and trees alongside the trail north of Deedsville.

Who the “someone” was didn’t remain a mystery for long. A local farmer told Miami County Sheriff investigators that he cut down the trees and brush on the 1,500-foot long stretch under the belief the wooded area was part of his uncle’s farm property.

The trails advocates, who filed suit last week in hopes of recovering damages, aren’t buying the story.

That’s partly because they’ve already had a run-in with the property owner. Last March, Jerry Piotter, 66, Macy, was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge after a physical confrontation with three trails volunteers.

Piotter, who’d never been arrested before, received pre-trial diversion for the incident, which involved an alleged shove. Now his nephew, Arnold Piotter, 22, Macy, is facing a misdemeanor mischief charge in connection with the brush cutting.

“You look between Kokomo and Rochester, we’ve only had a few issues,” Friends president Mike Kuepper said Monday. “There’s just a few people still being stubborn about it, I guess.”

For Piotter and some northern Miami County property owners, resentment over the trail has been lingering.

“They’ve lied like hell since day one over what they said they’d do,” Piotter said Tuesday, saying the trails volunteers have failed to fix damage they caused to his field drainage and to a crossing he uses to access his fields.

“They just act like us property owners are a piece [of dirt]. They don’t want to do any cooperation with the property owners,” he said.

The members of the Friends group, who have extended the trail north all the way to Rochester over the past few years, are familiar with the seemingly endless debate over who owns the trail right-of-way.

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