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Minnesota Supreme Court Denies Petitions Concerning State Trail

Fri, Apr 19th, 2013
Posted in All Government

By: Karen Reisner

The Minnesota Supreme Court order denied the petition of landowners Ristau and Snyder for further review and the petition of the city of Preston for conditional cross-review. The order was filed on April 16. This is just one more step in the long court process to settle the dispute concerning the proposed state trail from Preston to Forestville State Park.

The petitions were filed in late February after a Minnesota Appeals Court’s (Halbrooks, Stauber, and Collins) unpublished opinion was filed on February 13 that reversed and remanded the case to the lower court.


The seeds for the proposed trail were planted nearly 20 years ago when the vision for a state trail from Preston to Forestville State Park was born through the Joint Powers Board. The process to secure property for a new state trail segment began in 1998. By 2003 agreements were obtained from 17 of the 19 landowners with property along the planned route. The state has paid for the purchase of the 17 parcels. However, the last two properties owned by the Vernon Ristau and John Snyder families have not been acquired.

After numerous unsuccessful efforts over a period of years to acquire the last two properties, the city of Preston exercised the power of eminent domain on March 2, 2009 to acquire the needed 5.99 acres that were necessary to complete the construction of the planned trail segment.

Landowners Ristau and Snyder commenced a lawsuit against the DNR and the city of Preston in October 2009. Over the ensuing years several decisions were handed down by the district court on related issues.

In the spring of 2012 district court Judge Jeffrey Thompson determined that the trail was authorized by the legislature and that Preston’s use of the power of eminent domain was “proper under both Minnesota constitutional and statutory provisions.”

Lawyers for the landowners, Larry Peterson and Brent Kleffman, appealed the district court decision to the court of appeals later in 2012.

On February 11, 2013 the appeals court reversed the district court’s order and remanded the case to the district court for further findings. In the opinion of the appeals court, the district court had failed to explain its analysis or interpretation of the statutory language. Judge Thompson had determined that the trail was authorized by the state legislature as a segment of the Blufflands Trail System (MN Stat. 85.015, subd. 7b) and through the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Act of 1975 (ORA) (86 A.05, subd.4).

However, the appellate court opined that the statute does not specifically include Forestville State Park or the unincorporated area sometimes referred to as Forestville. The appeals court did note in a footnote that the city of Preston in oral argument before the appeals court argued the state park is located between Preston and Ostrander, adding that the proposed segment could one day be continued on to the city of Ostrander which is specifically listed in the statute. This argument by the city had not been considered in district court, so the appeals court would not consider it for the first time on appeal. The city is represented by David Joerg and Dwight Luhmann.

The question whether the city of Preston could exercise its power of eminent domain outside its city limits was not considered by the appeals court, as it is only an issue if the trail is authorized.

Back to District Court

Since the Minnesota Supreme Court denied the petitions, the next leg of the process will be for the district court to clarify its opinion and provide a more detailed explanation of how it interpreted statutory language to support its decision that the proposed Preston to Forestville State Park segment is authorized by state statute. Lawyers for the Ristaus and Snyders insist the proposed trail is not authorized by state statute as part of the Blufflands Trail System. Lawyers for the city of Preston contend the proposed segment has been authorized because its route could reasonably be continued on to Ostrander which is specifically noted in the statute.

While this dispute is being decided by the courts, the DNR has been working on the extension of the state trail from Preston to Carimona.

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