Conservation Land Neighbor Upset with People Using His Property

The Highway Safety Committee has referred a property owner concerned about outdoor enthusiasts on his land to the Town Council.

Emery Bickford, owner of a home and land across from the trailhead entrance to the Low Conservation Property, appeared at the July 17 Highway Safety meeting to discuss trail users parking on and crossing his property.

Bickford told the committee that even people who park in the 50-foot right-of-way, which is allowed, cross his lawn to access the trailhead, with one man even crossing his front steps.

“There’s approximately 1/6 of my property that I can’t use,” Bickford said.

He requested that the Safety Committee consider putting up “No Parking” signs in the area.

But it’s not that easy, Mike Fowler, Director of Public Works, told Bickford and the committee. The right-of-way is a temporary easement that was originally put in as access to an unfinished subdivision. “If the subdivision was finished this would go away and it would be a straight-through road,” he said.

Fowler referred to a term, “viatic use,” which allows cars to pass over an easement, utilities to be installed above or below ground, and people to park. The question, he said, is if a temporary subdivision fell under “viatic use.”

Alan Cote, superintendent of operations, said a temporary easement does fall under viatic use and allows all viatic uses, if necessary. The temporary easement was obtained so that if the road is ever finished and goes straight through, the town doesn’t have to go through reversionary rights, he said.

“Parking on the side of the road is a viatic use,” Cote said. “The problem is, people can be inconsiderate.”

“People are parking and crossing my property,” Bickford countered.

Bickford is not against the outdoors and led an Outing Club at the University of Maine, he told the Committee. But, he said, “I taught the students respect for private landowners.”

“If it were mine, I’d be posting signs of my own,” member Donald Burgess observed.

Bickford said he had signs, but they were a last resort because “I don’t want to offend my neighbors.”

Cote reminded members that Bickford’s issue wasn’t the purview of the Highway Safety Committee because it’s not a safety issue. “it’s a land-use issue,” Cote said.

And the “temporary easement” is not so temporary, as it abuts conservation land, which is preserved from development. “It’s a pretty permanent easement,” Cote observed.

He could see the easement not being necessary “in 500 years, when we all have Hovercraft and don’t need a turn-around.”

Bickford said he had no problem with parking overflow from his neighbors’ parties. But Fire Chief George Klauber said if Bickford put up a “No Parking” sign, it would cover everything.

Police Chief Ed Garone suggested a “Permitted Parking Only” parking sign. It is what the town did on Marlboro Street, next to the Derry Public Library, he said, to keep library patrons from parking in residents’ driveways.

“Have you called the police?” Burgess asked. Bickford said he hadn’t because without signs, there was nothing to enforce.

Committee members declined action on the request, and advised Bickford to address it directly with Conservation through an agenda item.

In a telephone interview Friday, Conservation Chairman Margaret Ives said she couldn’t speak for casual users of the trail. When the Commission has an event such as the recent “walk” of the property, they park in the right-of-way and only in the right-of-way, she said.