Complaints continue after Estabrook Road ruling

By Anne O’Connor
March 2, 2023

In November, a judge decided on a lawsuit filed in 2017 and heard in June 2021:  The dirt section of Estabrook Road, leading from the end of the paved section to the Carlisle line is a private way. But, the public has a right to access.

With a judgment in its favor, the town hoped that it could work with the property owners to ensure public access to the walking trail and to respect private property rights and avoid more litigation, said Town Administrator Kerry Lafleur.

The hoped for result has not happened. The landowners filed an appeal. They want their own signage at the gate, which is in two parts. A large section, which was closed before the judgment, prevented motorized vehicles from entering. The smaller section was usually left open.

During the height of Covid, the landowners closed the trail, said property owner and defendant Brooks Read. Other trails in town had been closed because so many people were using them, that the landowners did the same.

At the beginning of February, both sections of the gate were open. The town sent a letter requesting that the vehicle part be closed. 

Closing the gate would violate the court order, Read said. 

“We do not read the decision to require the gate to remain open,” Lafleur said, “The public must have the right to access the property, not motorized vehicles.”

Trail users complained that a tractor was using the trail. Read said he uses the trail to access his property. 

After the initial complaints, there has been no more vehicular traffic on the way, Lafleur said.

Property owners do not want unleashed dogs on their property. The extensive acreage is a popular destination for local dog walkers. 

In an October 2020 letter to the town, Brooks and his spouse, Dr. Susannah Kay, allege that “fecal material” had been smeared on private gates along the trail.

One of the rules in effect is that dogs must be leashed, Lafleur said. A town-employed ranger walks the trail throughout the year, except winter, to address this concern.

As of June 24, 2021, no citations were issued for any violations at Estabrook Woods, according to a document provided by the town in response to a public record request made by Read. The signs installed by the town stating that dogs must be leashed had been installed for about a year at the point, the property owner said.

Trail users confirm that dogs run loose, sometimes chasing cyclists.