A death wish for Happy Go-Lucky?

Well, well, well, what do we have here in the affluent rural netherlands of Chelan County?  It’s a dispute my Lord over Mother Nature, Mr. Property Rights and Mrs. Kumbaya vis-a-vis snowmobiling. It isn’t at all about the safety of not speeding, overloading, helmets or taking turns at a high speed on your toy, but more basic. As basic as the Constitution, both state and federal.
A fascinating drama unfolding during this Age of Corona Virus #19. It involves guns, dramatic scenery, snow machines and of course, lots of opinions. “As sands through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” *
The exact sequence of these emails among “neighbors of the Union Valley” are not in order. Names have been abbreviated to protect privacy and possible future “kinetic energy” against one another or, gadzooks, to their expensive, noisy and smelly machines. (Lord, can we have more horses?)
Remember folks, this is not Nanook of the North desperately hunting moose. Hold onto your seats and grab some popcorn, whiskey or both. Let’s begin:
Where is this property located? Anyone wanting to ride through my place is welcome BTW,  – Dave X.
“Unfortunately, it’s an annual problem ... same with motorcycles. The problem with sleds (in our experience) is if one person creates a ‘trail’, others follow throughout the season,” ---Tom T.
“J & D” wrote, “Neighbors, we have been hearing complaints about people snowmobiling on other peoples’ property. Remember if you don’t have permission to ride off-road on private property you are trespassing.
Please contact your neighbor and check if it’s ok with them. If you don’t know your neighbor or how to contact them let me know and I might be able to help.”
“I own 5 acres adjacent to Union Valley (UV) Road below Barden Lane. I do not have trouble with snowmobiles crossing my land if they are respectful of the property. Maybe UV landowners could organize a snowmobile route (road) with signage. I feel giving them a designated route to follow will prevent them from making it up and invading private property. I do not snowmobile. 2 cents,” – Peter J.
“Think this might have been an incident with me going from my place and meeting up with some other local riders on Sawmill Road.
First off, I would request that people complaining should not be anonymous.  If you really want people to stay off your land you must tell us who you are!
“In my case I just hopped off the plowed road near Larry’s meadow to get on some snow.  I don’t know exactly where Larry’s property starts or ends, but we all know Larry has no problem with people snowmobiling there ... because it causes no harm.
“The person that confronted me on Sawmill was an older grey-haired gentleman (maybe 65-70) in a white Tahoe and I think his name is Jim. I was very polite to Jim, but he was not polite to me. In fact, he threatened to shoot me. Not very neighborly. I asked him for his name, but he would not give it to me.
“I told Jim if he would just post no trespassing people would generally respect that.  Jim claimed he didn’t have to post it. This is not true. Under the recreation land use act and many other laws, you are required to notify people if you consider it trespassing.  Although Jim disagreed, he is wrong and basically was a giant ‘a-s-h-l-e.’ Obviously, you don’t want neighbors treating other neighbors like this as then you have a miserable community. We all look out for each other here, so we need to learn some patience, decency and general respect.
“What have we learned here? It is required by law to post No Trespassing signs otherwise anyone can enter your land legally. It IS Illegal to threaten to shoot someone. Snowmobiling does no harm to your land. If someone knows this individual, please contact me. I would like to know his name,” – T.H.
“I have a place on Open Lane. It was interesting what has been said in this chain of emails about trespassing on others property.
My Dad taught me that if you don’t own it or you don’t have permission, you are trespassing. Now in the last email, the Washington State recreation land use act was brought up, so I looked it up.
Washington State Legislature enacted the recreational use immunity statute, RCW 4.24.210, so that landowners may open their lands for recreational use and be immunized from liability for unintentional injuries that occur on their land.*
Basically, it is a statute that protects landowners from being sued for unintentional injuries.
“There is no mention of posting ‘No Trespassing’ signs on your property within this statute. I looked up trespassing laws in Washington state and this is the best description of the law I could find.
Trespassing occurs if you are on someone else’s private property without his or her permission, as well as staying on someone’s property after he or she asks you to leave.
“I do have signs on my property as a courtesy to the occasional visitor to Union Valley who might think that they have rights to my property just because it looks like a park.
To be good neighbors we need to respect each other and their private property.
I have no problem if someone wants to lawfully snowmobile on the road, with permission on other’s property or Federal or State recreational land,” --- G.H.
“I mentioned the Recreational Land Use Act because I knew this topic would get some attention and this is what the conversation always eventually gets to.  Someone justifying land access with ‘I don’t want to be responsible/liable for xxx’.  I mentioned this because after people realize someone is not trespassing, they start trying to justify their insecurities in other ways.
The threshold for all levels of trespassing is ‘knowingly’. Whether you are a hunter, hiker, snowmobiler, or just veer off a public right-of-way in your car. If you don’t have a fence, property line identifying marks or no trespassing signs nobody is actually trespassing until they are informed of their mistake and told to leave.  Snowmobiles often skirt the side of the road which is likely in the county’s easement. Pretending you own this land is not going to work for trespassing.
I have 60 acres in Union Valley and probably have more trespassers than everyone combined.  All entrance points to my property are clearly marked with no trespassing signs ... yet I get people every day going right past them. Do I threaten them? No. I simply ask them to leave and to respect my private property. (For) many I will not even do that, if they are clearly just passing through.
The trespassing laws are as numerous as the interpretations. The one thing you need to know is it’s not trespass if you are unaware you are doing it. This standard requires signage or other ways of informing wanderers. I won’t even get into prescriptive easements and other ways you may have legal rights on others lands.
I’m not advocating everyone go put up signs and fences. I am advocating if someone crosses your land be neighborly and don’t threaten to shoot them.
Jim L. confronted me far from his land after I may or may not have entered it skirting the road. Then he wouldn’t even identify himself after I politely asked.  I guess he must have recognized his threats were unlawful. He should learn to be decent to his neighbors ...we all should. A good start is identifying yourself and taking a chill pill,” --T.H.
Of course, other residents of Union Valley Road, Sawmill Road, Open Lane, School House Road, Cagle Gulch Road, Homestead Road, Yodeling Coyote, etc., have their own ideas as to what constitutes being “neighborly.” Take this next emailer for example:
“Okay T.H., I am now notifying you. I do not want anyone or thing on my land without a specific invite. I moved from the town for privacy --- not noise or trespassers. I do not hate people, just enjoy my privacy more, I have had to ‘greet’ strangers at my front gate with a gun because I caught them red-handed trying to unload their truck to dispose of large household appliances. I wasn’t going to shoot them, but wanted to make sure they understood my “feelings” about illegal dumping.  Maybe I’m too sensitive, eh?” – A.M., (retired military, resident of ‘God’s Country’ living somewhere in UV that’s none of your business.)
“There is only one sheriff in the valley during the winter and I do not think that snowmobiles are a high priority. We can all put up fences, I think that would be prohibitively expensive.
“I moved to the country because a community of neighbors can cooperate together better than paying lawyers to fight each other. In the Midwest, where snowmobiling is more popular, many farmers set up snowmobile routes that are near the roads. They post signs to keep the users on the routes.
“Most snowmobilers respect these routes and it prevents bad feelings and threats of violence. I do not snowmobile, but I would ask if any of us do… let’s see if we can agree on a route that sticks near the roads and get the neighbors to agree upon it.
“My concern if we dig our heels in, nothing will change.
If we work together, we can find a middle ground that respects our privacy and allows our neighbors to have recreation.” –P.J.
Okay, P.J., but we aren’t in Kansas anymore. Some residents did not realize they were subsidizing the outdoor recreation industry when they bought their piece of the American Dream.
The above dialog among neighbors is typically the way most Americans settle minor squabbles. Residents in and around the Union Valley area have fiercely independent and private lives. Some say they are infamous, perhaps arrogant to those who dare to visit that beautiful part of Chelan County.
From Leavenworth to Chelan and pretty much most of Washington state have winter and summer wonderlands to be sure, but do tourists or locals have the right to snowmobile on your property without pre-approval? Can Mrs. Kumbaya stifle a shotgun blast with chamomile tea and mediation or meditation and a bowl of leaf?
So far there has been no violence, no lawsuits, no sheriff. No big deal, but what do you, dear reader, think about all this? Let us know and please, continue reading all NCW Media publications to follow this intriguing journey of recreational rights versus private land rights, gun rights, animal rights, zoning laws and, well, pretty much the Holy Grail of American urban and rural planning manifested. What is this nuthouse of a “paradise” like during hunting season? Oy Vey!**
As has always been thus, the longest trek begins with the first step, or in this case, snow machine throttle.
Washington State Legislature, RCW 4.24.210,  for more information.
NCW Media always appreciates Letters to the Editor no matter your view. Email your comments to: Gary@NCWMedia.net. NCW Media is the parent company of the Lake Chelan Mirror, Leavenworth Echo, Cashmere Valley Record and the Wenatchee Business Journal in Chelan County and the Quad City Herald in Douglas and Okanogan counties.
*This quote was the theme of the 1960s soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”
**Derived from Yiddish- Germanic phrase for “Woe is me!” as well as other meanings.

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