A landowner may be sympathetic to a trail organization wanting to maintain a trail running through the landowner’s property. However, the landowner may rightfully have qualms about making any long-term commitment to public use. The Model Trail License Agreement is a tool that gives landowners the flexibility to allow a trail while explicitly ensuring that no long-term obligation is being established and providing for easy termination of the permission if the trail use is not working out to the owner’s satisfaction.
WeConservePA has published the model and accompanying commentary for public review and feedback before finalizing the first edition. Please respond with comments to [email protected] by September 23, 2022 with the subject heading Model Comments. Although the guidance is labeled “DRAFT,” it is in an advanced form and suitable for use in trail projects now.
WeConservePA publishes two model documents for establishing permanent trail easements: the Model Grant of Trail Easement—a simple, one page document to be used when brevity is a paramount concern–and the Model Trail Easement Agreement—an easement document that sets forth the land owner and trail organization arrangement in great detail.
Wherever an existing or potential future trail is expected to someday have a great number of users, WeConservePA strongly urges the use of trail easements rather than licenses to ensure that the public’s access is not lost. Much better for the trail organization to go to the trouble to establish permanent access in the near term than be faced with the permanent loss of the trail years later when it will likely be much harder to reroute or recreate the trail experience elsewhere.
With that said, WeConservePA recognizes that there are circumstances where a landowner simply will not consider a permanent trail easement. In those cases, WeConservePA encourages the trail organization to build a track record of success and marshal the resources that might enable it to one day—preferably sooner rather than later—convince the landowner to convert the license into a permanent easement.