Right of way controversy ignites on Springwater Corridor Trail

Right of way controversy ignites on Springwater Corridor Trail »Play Video
Terry Emmert, owner of the Eastmoreland Racquet Club, put up this gate on a spur of the Springwater Corridor, blocking public access to his property. The city is still trying to figure out if there was an agreement for the public to use the trail.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A battle is brewing over trail access in Southeast Portland as many people are complaining a section of the Springwater Corridor has been blocked illegally.

The main trail is open but what many consider a spur trail is now blocked by a gate near the spot where the two trails merge.

Part of the spur trail is on private property and belongs to the Eastmoreland Racquet Club, and the owner, Terry Emmert, says he has a right to cut off access. But others point to decades-old land use records and a long-standing agreement for the general public to use this trail.

But it’s still not clear who’s right.

After about a week and a half or two weeks from putting up the gate, Emmert is unapologetic, admitting he's the one who put up the gate effectively cutting off access from the Springwater Corridor to his property.

But is it legal?

“Now we're trying to look into the documents that can legally establish whether or not it is a violation,” said Mike Liefeld with the city’s Bureau of Development Services.

Liefeld’s staff is still trying to gather records.

But KATU News obtained some records sent to it by someone who lives near the club. On one of those pages, from 1991, club owners are told to dedicate an easement for the 40-mile loop trail in exchange for expanding the racquet club. But Emmert, who didn't buy the club until after that, said there's a catch. There was never an expansion.

“They had made a proposal to expand it and this could have been a condition that was put in,” he said.

Meaning no expansion, no easement. But was there one even before that?

“I have not found one that I've been able to uncover that gives the general public a right of way to go through the private property,” Emmert said.

Emmert said he cut off access because the club was dealing with vandalism and car break-ins.

According to the city, it will take up to a week to look through documents dating back to 1976 to find out if there was ever any agreement for the general public to use the trail.