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DNR Addresses Trail Easements & Right-Of-Way Questions

The regulations regarding the use of the trail system can be confusing–even controversial.

Such a situation arose recently between a property owner in Houghton County and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The issues were mainly trail easements and right-of-ways.

Easements are required when a landowner has to cross state land to access their property when there is no other way to get to it, like when an owner needs to cross a rail-trail.

The property owner then must pay a $300 application fee and another $1,000 minimum per easement.

And once the easement is secured, some land owners may be surprised to find out they may have to yield to the traffic on the rail-trail and may even have to purchase stop signs.


DNR Upper Peninsula Trails Coordinator Robert Yesney said, “And we’ve always had that rule in there that if somebody crosses a rail-trail, then it’s their responsibility to stop, and one of the main reasons is that there’s a lot more traffic on the rail-trails than there are on the driveways and because we are also held by rules that we have to preserve these for future rail use.”

For other trails however, the right-of-way depends on the situation but the idea is to provide maximum trail recreation enjoyment while still keeping crossings as safe as possible for everyone.

The DNR says these regulations have been in place for several years so nothing about them is new.

Still, some property owners are alarmed when they learn about some of these regulations, even accusing the DNR of simply money-grabbing.

But the DNR says that’s not the case and they are willing to work with property owners to provide legal access to their property with as little cost as possible.

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