Couple disputes city’s claim to land for Riverfront Trail spur
Carl and Sharon Pellam thought they were moving into their retirement home when they bought their nearly five-acre spread where Rosevale Road dead-ends on the eastern edge of the Redlands. It would be a place where they could spread out with their horses, chickens and cows, build a couple of barns among the towering cottonwood trees and spend a lazy day aboard a boat on the appropriately named Hidden Lake.
Two years later, however, the couple is engaged in a dispute with Grand Junction over ownership of a chunk of property where the city wants to build a trail.
City officials claim they own the northwest corner of the Pellams’ land and point to a decades-old judge’s decision as proof.
The Pellams insist they own the land, based on surveys and the fact they have been paying taxes on it. They’ve retained an attorney who argues the city acquired an easement and right of way on the property, but not fee ownership, which would give the city total control over the property.
“We’re the little guy. We can’t afford an attorney, but we can’t afford to lose our property, either,” Sharon Pellam said.
Before the Pellams purchased 422 Rosevale Road, they hired a surveyor to come out and sink stakes into the ground to mark the property boundaries. Two weeks after they closed on the property, they received a letter from the city indicating it intended to build a trail there, Sharon Pellam said.
The half-mile Lower No Thoroughfare Trail would provide a connection between the Riverfront Trail near the Broadway bridge and Monument Road. Plans call for two 25-foot pedestrian bridges, one of which the Pellams claim would be on their property.
The Pellams say they didn’t hear anything further from the city about the trail until last month, when they received another letter. In it, city officials asked the couple to remove a fence from the northern end of the property and indicated trail construction would begin in about a month.
The Pellams claim the city’s plans for the trail would consume nearly an acre of their property and force them to relocate their driveway and their horse corral.
“It’s a lot of money to make a new entrance,” Sharon Pellam said.
The Pellams say they doubt the city or anyone other than them owns the property because nobody has maintained No Thoroughfare Creek, which flows through the northern end of the property, by clearing weeds and other growth. As a result, the creek has flooded and ruined their hay.
“That’s OK. If we own that property, it’s our fault,” Sharon Pellam said.
In a letter sent to City Attorney John Shaver last week, the Pellams’ attorney, Bryce Palo, wrote that Mesa County records show the property in dispute was handed down to various groups over the years through deeds and court decrees, beginning in 1933 with the Redlands Water and Power Co. The company deeded the property in 1998 to the Colorado Riverfront Foundation, which then deeded it to the city last year.
Palo wrote that he believes that Redlands Water and Power acquired only an easement and right of way, which allowed its wastewater to flow from the company’s canal to the Colorado River — but not fee ownership .
“That is all the City now owns and under the law of easements, the historical use of the land cannot be expanded and enlarged to allow for the proposed trail use,” Palo wrote in the letter.
But Shaver said the 1933 District Court decree makes it clear that Redlands Water and Power had full ownership of the property. A copy of the decree, which was provided to The Daily Sentinel, reads in part “the plaintiff (Redlands Water and Power) owns in fee and has exclusive right of possession of the above described real property.”
The City Council last week approved a $314,000 contract with Skyline Contracting of Grand Junction for building the trail, although Shaver told council members construction won’t start until the dispute over who owns the land is settled.
Councilman Tom Kenyon met with the Pellams briefly after the council meeting to listen to their concerns. He said regardless of who owns the property, he believes the city mishandled the situation with the Pellams.
“Whenever we’re doing anything on or adjacent to someone’s property, you have to go in there with that whole air of respect, and I sure didn’t get the impression that (the Pellams) got that. That bothers me,” said Kenyon, who serves as the council’s representative on the Riverfront Commission.
“No matter whether we own it or not, we’re going to be a neighbor there for a long time, and they deserve the respect to be treated appropriately.”
Shaver said he spoke with Palo last week after receiving Palo’s letter and hopes to resolve the dispute.
“I understand (the trail) is going to change the status quo. We’re going to work with them to the extent we can,” he said.
Palo didn’t return calls seeking comment.