TIBURON (CBS SF) — The California Court of Appeals has ruled that four hiking trails on the 110-acre Martha Company property in Tiburon have not been dedicated to the public use by its owner.

The trails involved are the Ridge Trail, the Spanish Trail, and northern and southern trails that connect the two named trails. Hikers on the trails enjoy sweeping views of the Bay including the Golden Gate Bridge and the city skyline.

The ruling was a blow to the citizen group referred to as TRUST — short for Tiburon/Belvedere Residents United to Support the Trails — that brought an action in 2017 to establish that the popular trails had been “impliedly dedicated” to the public because the owners were aware of the community’s use and failed to object.

TRUST’s suit did not argue that the entire property was dedicated to the public, just the trails.

The organization’s stated mission is to “save these trails, not only for the present, but to save them into the future and combine them with other trails to form a network for the public to enjoy.”

The court’s ruling affirmed a finding by the trial court to the effect that TRUST had not met its burden of proving that the property had been used openly and continually by the public for a substantial period of time with the owner’s knowledge and without objection.

The property in question is the largest undeveloped privately-owned parcel in Tiburon, according to the owners’ filings with the
court.

The owners currently have the property listed for sale with Sotheby’s for $95 million.

The property is bounded by Paradise Drive to the north and east, the residential neighborhoods of Hill Haven and Lyford Cove/Old Tiburon
within the Town of Tiburon to the south, and the Old St. Hilary’s Preserve to the west.

Plaintiffs presented 28 witnesses who testified that they used the trails openly and regularly without objection during the time in question and their use was significant enough that the owners were aware the trails were being used by the public.

They used the trails for various forms of recreation, including hiking, running, dog walking, motor biking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, cardboard sledding, and picnicking.

Nonetheless, the court said that it takes a high standard of proof to “take away a party’s land in favor of a public dedication.” In this case, it said that TRUST’s proof did not meet that high standard.

The court stated, “When the predominant users are neighbors, the landowner may have simply tolerated their use as a neighborly accommodation.”

The court also reviewed the testimony of the property owner about steps taken during the time in question to put signage and fencing around the area to prevent public use, and concluded that plaintiffs had not met their high burden that there had been implied consent.

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