If a landowner along Casper Mountain’s popular Bridle Trail ever closes his property to hikers, the Natrona County Parks director thinks there is an easy fix.
Others aren’t so sure.
The issue, which was discussed at the parks board January meeting, centers on the Davis Way bypass.
That part of the trail runs through land owned by Howard Christman, who has expressed concern about a small number of people littering and generally being a nuisance near his house.
Christman recently retired, and in August he told the Natrona County Commission that he was spending more time at home and wanted the problem hikers dealt with.
“Ninety-eight percent of the people are great; I don’t have any problems with anyone. It’s that 2 percent that are causing serious, serious, problems,” Christman said at the time.
“They get confrontational about it,” he said. “I ask them just to stay on the road and … they said, ‘Well, I didn’t see any no trespassing signs.’ I said, ‘Well, you passed seven on the way up here.’ I just want them to stay on the road.”
While he said that there is no imminent threat of closure, Parks Director Matt Buhler said that if the trail was forced to go around Christman’s land, that would not be a problem.
“There’s another trail that goes basically directly south of there,” Buhler said. “That would be where that reroute would be.”
In an interview Tuesday, Christman said he hasn’t threatened to close the trail, but is frustrated at the slow pace of action.
“I’ve been very patient about it. I haven’t made any threats or anything.”
Buhler said the parks board discussed options for fixing up a secondary trail at its meeting last month but that the talks were speculative. Until snow clears in the spring, Buhler said, it is impossible to know how much work will need to be done.
For his part, Christman said county representatives told him multiple times in 2016 that the path would be rerouted away from his property.
“They made all these promises,” he said, but added that he has yet to see any action.
Friends of the Bridle Trail founder Neil Benton said the reroute is a non-starter.
Benton said that the southern trail was a “goat path” with too steep a grade to accommodate many Bridle Trail users, including young children, the elderly and horseback riders.
He said the alternative path had been built after a county assessment determined that a proper trail would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“The whole side of the mountain there is sheer rock and you’d have to build walls and structures,” Benton said. “The engineers just said the cost would be astronomical.”
Benton was confident that a reroute would not be necessary.
He said his organization has worked with Christman and other landowners to improve signage along the trail and ensure that the 9 p.m. curfew is enforced.
Benton added that Christman might not have the right to close access to the Davis Way bypass even if he wanted to, due to what’s called an implied easement.
While landowners can explicitly grant easements — whereby people are allowed access to, or across, their land for specific purposes — that is not necessarily needed for third-party access.
There are several examples of where a property owner cannot block access to his or her land. For example, an easement can be “implied by necessity” if crossing private property is the only way to access a public road.
An easement can also exist where land has been used for a specific purpose for many years prior to an individual acquiring the property.
“There are some legal arguments that the trail belongs to the people of Wyoming, Natrona County and Casper,” Benton said.
But Buhler said the discussions among members of the parks board were only preemptive and there is no reason for users to expect immediate changes.
“It’s still kind of as-is for now,” Buhler said. “Nothing has been determined one way or another.”