WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday sided with a Wyoming property owner in a dispute over a bicycle trail that follows the route of an abandoned railroad. The decision could force the government to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate landowners.
The justices ruled, 8 to 1, Monday that property owner Marvin Brandt remains the owner of a 200-foot-wide trail that crosses his 83-acre parcel in southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest.
The trail once was the path of a railroad and is among thousands of miles of abandoned railroads that have been converted to recreational trails.
Chief Justice John Roberts said the government was wrong to assert that it owns the trail.
The government says it faces compensation claims involving 10,000 properties in 30 states, possibly topping $100 million.
In a separate matter Monday, the justices declined to wade into a dispute between the Episcopal Church and a conservative congregation that left the denomination in a rift over homosexuality and other issues.
The justices on Monday rejected an appeal from The Falls Church, one of seven Virginia congregations that broke away from the Episcopal Church in 2006 and aligned itself with the more conservative Anglican Church of North America. The breakaway congregation in suburban Washington claimed a right to keep the church building and surrounding property.