Chassell property owners sued by DNR over barrier across trail
By LAURA KIRBY, DMG WriterCHASSELL — Two property owners in Portage Township are being sued by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for putting a barrier across a recreational trail leading from Houghton to Chassell, according to DNR officials and documents filed at the Houghton County Courthouse.
According to a complaint filed May 5, Eric and Naomi Leukuma, of 44732 Highway 41, “erected a barrier along the south line of their property, and also across property owned by the MDNR.” Similarly Naomi’s father Matte Kiilunen and wife Mary Kiilunen, of 44724 Highway 41, “erected a barrier along the north edge of their property line and across MDNR’s property.” Laurie Silagy, land use and trespass specialist with the DNR forest, mineral and fire management in Roscommon confirmed the suit.“My division that I work for, forwarded a complaint to the the department of attorney’s general office,” Silagy said Friday. Naomi Leukoma said she preferred not to comment at this time. Matte Kiilunen was unavailable for comment.
The fence blocks a trail which runs through the backyard property boundaries of both homes.The complaint claims trespass by the above defendants on the grounds that fences erected on a 60-foot-wide former railroad bed owned formerly by the Soo Line, crosses the property of MDNR. Pursuant to both properties, a deed received from the Kiilunen’s dated Nov. 1, 1999, states their property ownership “LESS the 60-foot right-of-way of the Duluth Shore and Atlantic Railroad” and subject to all exceptions, reservations, restrictions, liens and conditions of record,” according to the file. Both parties also erected a barrier across the edge of their own property line, crossing DNR property sometime during 2005, the complaint says. According to statements made by Baraga DNR officer Martin Nelson, his office requested the property owners to remove the fence in October 2005.
When the property owners didn’t respond, Nelson contacted Silagy at the Roscommon DNR office for further action. Silagy sent a letter to Eric and Naomi Leukoma during early November 2005, which gave a Nov. 24 deadline for the fence to be taken down. They did not comply, and Silagy forwarded the case to the Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox’s office in Escanaba, she said.
The recreational trail, which runs adjacent to U.S. Highway 41 has been a controversial topic since a request by DNR to motorize it in order to increase snowmobile use and boost tourism. Acquired by the DNR in 2002, the five-mile corridor’s use is governed by state land use rules. A Chassell - Houghton Recreation Corridor Advisory Committee was subsequently created to make recommendations to the DNR. One of the recommendations was that the trail be for non-motorized use only between April 1 through November 20, and open to motor vehicles throughout winter.No trial date has been set yet.Laura Kirby can be reached at email@example.com
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