After 15 years of litigation, the owners of the property that became the Huron River Greenway won their battle with the Erie MetroParks system.
Edwin "Mick" Coles, a lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that contended the park system had no right to take the land, said the issue was always about private property rights.
The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed that stand last month, ruling unanimously against the park system and ordering it to compensate the property owners.
Coles said he was relieved to finally get vindication, and we agree. Although this editorial board has been generally in favor of the Greenway in concept, we've also noted with alarm governments' increased attempts to encroach on property rights.
In the end, it was about private property rights, and the park system should have taken that into account before it took the land.
While negotiating with the railroad for the abandoned rail line might have been appropriate on some level, the park system should never have ignored the documentation property owners provided. Now, MetroParks is likely to be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more, to keep the Greenway.
There was ample opportunity to review the ownership claims made by private citizens, and solutions that might have been attainable through conversations over a cup of coffee slipped by.
Those missed opportunities for constructive dialogue resulted in years of litigation. It's also likely the price tag for the land will now be much heftier than it would have been years ago.
Regardless, we're hoping attorneys for the park system can reach a settlement with the property owners to provide just compensation. They might be able to do that if they're mindful the property owners are now in the driver's seat.
Good luck, folks.