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Arroyo Seco Foundation

News of the Arroyo


Title:

Legal fight looms over historic spot

Subtitle:

Date:

2004-10-26

Summary:

October 26, 2004 - The long-simmering dispute over access to the El Prieto Fire Road and Owen Brown's grave site has led to a lawsuit file by local residents who are trying to protect public access rights.

Author:

Kimm Groshong, Staff Writer

Publication:

Pasadena Star News

Content:

Property owner sued for allegedly blocking access road

Monday, October 25, 2004 - ALTADENA -- In a new attempt to gain unfettered access to El Prieto Fire Road and Owen Brown\'s grave site, a trails association and local resident have filed suit against a property owner they say is blocking a portion of the trail.

Save the Altadena Trails and Evangeline Whitehead claim in their formal complaint that Michael Cichy is unjustly preventing hikers and history buffs from using the historic trail and from viewing Brown\'s 1889 burial site atop a knoll known as Little Round Top.

Brown was a survivor of the pre-Civil War Harper\'s Ferry raid and son of abolitionist John Brown.

The complaint comes about four months after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled public access must be restored to the fire road via a 200-foot common driveway at the north end of the paved El Prieto Road. Cichy is now being sued for allegedly blocking another portion of the same trail.

Paul Ayers, the attorney who won the fire road case for Save the Altadena Trails in June, is also representing the plaintiffs this time around.

\"I\'ve always been open to working with Mr. Cichy to restore access,\' Ayers said. \"He\'s been, I guess I have to say, increasingly belligerent and is, beyond the fact of the access issue, violating a number of county laws by what he\'s doing on the land.\'

Cichy, an Oregon resident, could not be reached for comment and Ayers said he has not been able to serve Cichy in person.

In an earlier incident in 2002, when Cichy\'s \"No Trespassing\' signs were torn down, he said he felt he was being harassed. \"I just want to be left alone to do my thing,\' he said at the time. \"There\'s no easement\' for public access.

However, the plaintiffs hold that Owen and his brother, Jason, established the fire road around 1886 as a piece of a wagon road leading to their cabin and land. They believe they have the evidence to prove the fire road has been used by the public since 1889 \"to travel for recreational purposes to connected trails and roads in the Angeles National Forest, and to visit the Owen Brown grave site,\' the complaint says.

Shari Asplund, a member of Save the Altadena Trails, said the new suit is the next logical step following the June victory. \"It\'s just, to me, such a significant piece (of the trail),\' since Brown played an important role in American history, she said.

Brown\'s grave marker disappeared in 2002. Cichy has previously denied responsibility for its disappearance but said he planted the tree that stands in its place.

The county\'s Department of Regional Planning has conducted numerous inspections of Cichy\'s property for land-use violations since he purchased the land in 2002 and has directed him to remove various belongings such as an RV and car from the property. In June, the department referred the case to the District Attorney\'s Office.

At a meeting last month, \"Cichy agreed to clear the property of any personal belongings\' said Alex Garcia, the section head for zoning enforcement in the district.


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