Miami County Bd. of Commissioners v. Kanza Rail–trails Conservancy Inc.

Decision Date10 June 2011
Docket NumberNo. 101,811.,101,811.
Citation292 Kan. 285,255 P.3d 1186
CourtKansas Supreme Court

[255 P.3d 1191 , 292 Kan. 285]

Syllabus by the Court

1. Congress did not make an express statement of preemption with respect to the management responsibilities for the interim use of a recreational trail located in a railbanked right-of-way when it enacted the National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1241 et seq. (2010).

2. Traditional public health and safety issues related to the use of recreational trails are not issues that are uniquely federal in nature, and by enacting 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) (2010), Congress did not intend to displace state and local laws relating to land use, zoning, and public health and safety that may apply to recreational trails on railbanked rights-of-way.

3. The objectives of 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) (2010) are (1) to preserve established transportation corridors and railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation of energy efficient rail service and (2) to encourage the development of trails and assist recreational users by providing opportunities for trail use on an interim basis.

4. The Kansas Recreational Trails Act, K.S.A. 58–3211 et seq. , does not stand as an obstacle to accomplishing the objectives of 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) (2010).

5. The Kansas Recreational Trails Act, K.S.A. 58–3211 et seq. , does not have an explicit design to discriminate against out-of-state competitors.

6. The Kansas Legislature did not intend to create a benefit to local competitors by burdening out-of-state competitors when it enacted the Kansas Recreational Trails Act, K.S.A. 58–3211 et seq.

7. The Kansas Recreational Trails Act, K.S.A. 58–3211 et seq. , does not have the effect of providing a benefit to local competitors, and it does not impose a unique burden on interstate entities.

8. The differential treatment of interim recreational trails in railbanked rights-of-way from other categories of recreational trails that results from the terms of the Kansas Recreational Trails Act, K.S.A. 58–3211 et seq. , does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution or Kansas Constitution.

9. A nongovernmental responsible party who develops, operates, or maintains an interim recreational trail is required by K.S.A. 58–3212(b) to post a bond or provide proof of an escrow account to ensure that annual costs, enumerated in K.S.A. 58–3212(b)(1)(5), are covered. Even if the responsible party and the local city or county cannot agree on the amount of the bond or escrow account, a district court has jurisdiction to enforce the responsibility and set the bond amount.

Michael T. Mills, of Michael T. Mills, Chartered, of McPherson, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.David R. Heger, county counselor, argued the cause and was on the brief for appellee.

The opinion of the court was delivered by LUCKERT, J.:

This appeal relates to 4.5 miles of a railroad right-of-way in Miami County, Kansas, that has been railbanked and is now operated as a recreational trail. Generally, the issues in this appeal focus on the relationship between and the application of the Kansas Recreational Trails Act (KRTA), K.S.A. 58–3211 et seq. , and the National Trails System Act, commonly referred to as the federal “Rails to Trails” Act (Trails Act), 16 U.S.C. § 1241 et seq. (2010). Specifically, this appeal raises the issues of:

(1) Whether 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) (2010) of the Trails Act preempts the KRTA and, particularly,

(a) Whether the KRTA is preempted because it impermissibly conflicts with 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) of the Trails Act;

(b) Whether the KRTA is preempted because it violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution by impermissibly discriminating between types of recreational trails;

(2) Whether the KRTA violates equal protection rights by establishing statutory requirements for recreational trails created by interim use of railroad rights-of-way; and

(3) Whether the district court has jurisdiction to set the amount of bond required under the KRTA when the parties disagree as to the amount.

The district court, in addressing the original action for a writ in mandamus, concluded the KRTA was not preempted by 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) of the Trails Act, was not in conflict with the Trails Act, and did not violate any constitutional rights. Additionally, the district court determined that Miami County had the authority to require a bond, and the court required Kanza Rail–Trails Conservancy, Inc. (Kanza), to pay a bond of $9,040.

Kanza appealed, and the matter was transferred to this court pursuant to K.S.A. 20–3018(c). We affirm.

Federal and State Statutes

The federal statute at issue was adopted in 1976 when Congress passed the original version of the Trails Act, which was aimed at promoting the conversion of abandoned rail lines to recreational trails. Preseault v. ICC, 494 U.S. 1, 6–7, 110 S.Ct. 914, 108 L.Ed.2d 1 (1990). Pursuant to its authority to regulate interstate commerce, Congress granted the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), and later the Surface Transportation Board (STB), exclusive authority over the construction, operation, and abandonment of the nation's rail lines. In light of that authority, when a railroad operator wants to cease operations on a rail line, it must file a notice of its intent with the STB, which can authorize the abandonment only if it finds that public convenience and necessity require it. 49 U.S.C. § 10903(d) (2006). In this process, as provided by amendments to the Trails Act adopted by Congress in 1995, the STB has the authority to preserve rights-of-way not currently in service for possible future railroad use (called “railbanking”) and to allow interim use of the land as recreational trails. Preseault, 494 U.S. at 6–7, 110 S.Ct. 914.

To facilitate this interim use of a railroad right-of-way, the Trails Act provides that a railroad wishing to cease operations along a particular route may negotiate with a state, municipality, or private group that is prepared to assume financial and management responsibility for the right-of-way. Specifically, pursuant to the 1995 amendments, 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) of the Trails Act provides in part:

“If a State, political subdivision, or qualified private organization is prepared to assume full responsibility for management of such rights-of-way and for any legal liability arising out of such transfer or use, and for the payment of any and all taxes that may be levied or assessed against such rights-of-way, then the Board shall impose such terms and conditions as a requirement of any transfer or conveyance for interim use in a manner consistent with this chapter, and shall not permit abandonment or discontinuance inconsistent or disruptive of such use.”

If no agreement is reached, the railroad may be permitted to abandon the line entirely. Preseault, 494 U.S. at 6–8, 110 S.Ct. 914.

In addition to these federal provisions relating to the interim use of a rail line as a recreational trail, the Kansas Legislature adopted the KRTA, which relates to the development and use of any property that is transferred or conveyed for interim use. Under the KRTA, [u]pon receipt of permission from the appropriate federal agency to enter into negotiations for interim trail use, the responsible party shall give written notice to each adjacent property owner that the responsible party intends to build a recreational trail adjacent to the property owner's property.” K.S.A. 58–3213(a). Also, the responsible party must prepare a plan for development of the recreational trail and submit that plan to the commission of all counties or governing body of all cities through which the trail will pass. K.S.A. 58–3213(b)(3), (4). Two of the terms in these requirements are statutorily defined: K.S.A. 58–3211(b) defines a [r]ecreational trail” as “a trail created pursuant to subsection (d) of 16 U.S.C. 1247[§ ] (1983) of the Trails Act, and K.S.A. 58–3211(c) defines a [r]esponsible party as “any person, for-profit entity, not-for-profit entity or governmental entity that is responsible for developing, operating or maintaining a recreational trail.”

K.S.A. 58–3212 of the KRTA imposes several duties on the responsible party, including: providing for safety, use, and accessibility of the recreational trail; providing for litter control; providing for education of trail users and signage regarding safety, trespassing, and litter control; maintaining the trail so it does not create a fire hazard; providing trash receptacles and cleanup of trash and litter; prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles other than wheelchairs and maintenance, law enforcement, and emergency vehicles; prohibiting hunting or trapping along the trail; providing law enforcement along the trail; maintaining and installing fencing between the trail and adjoining property; and maintaining the trail, bridges, culverts, roadway intersections, crossings, and signs on the trail. K.S.A. 58–3212(a).

To protect the city or county from damage if a nongovernmental responsible party does not fulfill these obligations, K.S.A. 58–3212(b) provides that the nongovernmental responsible party “shall file” with the county clerk of each county “where a portion of the recreational trail is or will be located a bond or proof of an escrow account in a Kansas financial institution, as defined by K.S.A. 16–117[,] payable to the county. The statute specifies that [t]he bond or escrow account shall be conditioned on the responsible party's performance, and shall be in an amount agreed upon between the responsible party and the county commission as sufficient to fully cover” the annual enumerated costs. K.S.A. 58–3212(b).

The dispute in this case arose over the application of these statutes to the proposed development of a recreational trail in Miami County, Kansas.

Facts and Procedural Background


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