Trails advocate Charlie Skoog, Kokomo, said the problem dates back to the passage of the federal “railbanking” law, which gave a huge boost to rails-to-trails projects like the Nickel Plate.
“A lot of these people don’t accept the railbanking law as legitimate,” Skoog said. “They don’t think [the trail] has a right to exist.”
The Nickel Plate is built on an old rail line, and the rail line was originally built on deeded easements.
Many of the farmers along the rail line wanted to see those easements revert to the original property owner when the railroad abandoned the line. Instead, the railbanking law allowed trails advocates to use the easements for a trail. Attorneys representing landowners are currently in the process of trying to obtain compensation from the federal government.
Asked if he thinks the trail is there legally, Piotter answered carefully.
“Go down to the [Miami County] Courthouse, and you’ll find I’ve paid taxes on this ground for 46 years,” Piotter said. “I’ve got the deed. That pretty much makes it mine.”
Despite his skepticism over the railbanking law, Piotter said he accepts the trail. He said he just wants the trail builders to respect neighboring property.
Trails advocates, however, say the Piotters aren’t respecting their property.
They’ve got a court “no contact” order against Jerry Piotter and they’re seeking court action over the clear-cutting incident.
Three volunteers were working on the trail north of Deedsville last March when they were approached by Piotter, according to a Miami County Sheriff probable cause affidavit.
Piotter told deputies that he confronted the men, who were fixing washouts along the trail, over property damage claims.
He said he got angry when one of the men, Friends vice president Bill Click, ignored him. Piotter said he grabbed Click by the shirt collar. After words were exchanged, Piotter said he was confronted by one of the volunteers, who Piotter said was pointing a pitchfork.