Public access to Hull Cove threatened
When the Conservation Commission in 2009 looked into building a boardwalk on a popular trail that leads from Beavertail Road to Hull Cove, it approached the Coastal Resources Management Council asking for permission.
The state’s coastal agency determined that because of wetlands, the only way it would allow a walkway of any kind on the 6-foot-wide trail be if it were built 3 feet above ground. Because of the hurdle, the town axed the plan.
Today, a passageway of another type can be seen there, one big enough to drive a truck down. According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, the “private driveway” was created sometime in late July without the town’s support or CRMC permits, and public property was destroyed in the process.
“There was actually destruction of public property,” said Keiser. “One is the parkingguard rail, and obviously the bollard was cut as well.”
The trail in question has been an ongoing battle between the town and the owner. While the tax assessor’s plat maps on the town’s website identify it as a private right-of-way, Keiser contends that through adverse possession, the town has become the de facto owners of the property.
“The concept of adverse possession is if an individual uses a piece of land for enjoyment over a certain amount of time, without objections from the owner, that a judge can determine that the use and enjoyment ultimately leads to the title being given to the individual that was utilizing it,” Keiser said.
“Owners of the cabana lots 110 years ago granted permission to individuals to use that private right-of-way as a means to reach the Hull Cove shore,” said Keiser. “So that right-of-way was abandoned through nonuse by the private residents.”
Keiser said that since the town took it upon itself to maintain the property, that it now owns the trail.
“The owner maintains that he has a historical right for what was once a private right-of-way,” Keiser said. “But because we maintained it for a number of years, even though there is no clear title to ownership, we say we own it through adverse possession. Out intent is to assert that right in court.”
Keiser said nobody has confessed to clearing the trail or erecting the padlocked iron gate. However, the town did receive a key to the padlock from John Kupa Jr., Edward Andrade Jr.’s attorney. Andrade owns the property that the driveway leads to. (When reached at his Florida home yesterday, Andrade said he was busy and couldn’t talk. Kupa did not return phone calls.) “It’s clear who the culprit is,” said Keiser.
Chris Powell, who chaired the Conservation Commission for 26 years, including when it tried to get CRMC assent in 2009 to build the boardwalk, says he agrees with Keiser because the town has been taking care of the trail for a number of years.
“I was with the Conservation Commission when we did a number of cleanups over the course of more than 20 years,” he said. “The rec department put a portable toilet there and we put trashcans there. Every Earth Day we clean it up.”
In a town document drafted by the Planning Department in 1992, ownership of the trail is shown as “Town of Jamestown, legally established right-of-way.”
The trail is described as “located in the rural area of town. Access to the shore is gained easterly from Beavertail Road. The site has a parking lot, beyond which is a level footpath leading to the shoreline. This site commands a breathtaking view of the mouth of the East Passage at Brenton Point, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Surrounded on both side by rock outcroppings, the cove itself consists of a sand and cobble beach, with rolling surf.”
According to Keiser, Andrade inherited the lot at 1 Walton St., where the newly cleared driveway leads to, from his ancestors. He subsequently purchased three surrounding 1,000-square-foot cabana lots. “He attempted to enlist the town’s cooperation and support to get right-of-way access to the property because there was no clear right-of-way access whatsoever,” said Keiser. “He asked to make it a private right-of-way. We said we were not interested in that and we have no interest in the development of the lots.”
Since then, Keiser added, the controversy has gone back and forth with various letters from lawyers over the course of the last four years. “We indicated we hadn’t changed our position.”
Along with a battle with the town over the right-of-way, Powell said that whoever is responsible for the clearing of the trees and brush will have to answer to the CRMC. “When we wanted to alter that area, we had to jump through hoops,” he said. “All they allowed us to do was prune the trail. They decided what we could cut and approved a certain amount. There are very strict limitations because of the wetlands. The trail is wet and muddy 10 months out of the year.”
Conservation Commission Chairwoman Carol Trocki is aware of the situation and said the panel will discuss it at its Aug. 16 meeting. “I think it’s up to the town administrator, the town council and the town solicitor to pursue this,” she said. “I’m sure the Conservation Commission will be interested in making sure that happens.”
Said Keiser, “It shocked us all that this individual took the lone stance that they did to destroy public property and clear it without any public assents. There are a lot of problems here, and we are looking to get them rectified.”