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Supervisor-elect presses for trail opening

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2001

SUMMIT: Supervisor-elect Harold Schnur doubts that his persuasive abilities will be enough to open the Freeport-Butler Community Trail within the township.

Come January, he could be the lone member of a three-man board wanting the trail open and a lawsuit dropped against Buffalo Township involving the trail.

Incumbent supervisors Regis Karch and John Oesterling already have said they intend to continue with litigation and are opposed to having the trail run through the township, Schnur said.

"I'll make the effort to get it open, but (Karch and Oesterling) have already let me know it's not going to happen," he said.

Karch didn't return calls for comment and Oesterling refused to comment Sunday.

Schnur, a former Jefferson Township supervisor, recently won election in Summit and said one of his goals while in office is to have the trail open from Freeport to Butler, as originally intended, although how he will do that is uncertain.

Schnur is convinced that if the township drops its suit against Buffalo Township, the court will order an injunction to open the trail.

Summit last year won a court battle keeping the trail closed.

The trail has become a source of much controversy. Other litigation involving the trail is circulating in the courts.

Residents in Jefferson Township recently were awarded an appeal to the state Supreme Court in their effort to close the trail within their township.

W.C. Smith, the attorney for the residents, said that Buffalo Township doesn't have the right to run the trail through Jefferson Township primarily because the trail wasn't properly acquired.

Residents had the trail blocked in Jefferson Township for at least five years before the courts ordered that they had no right to do so.

Smith said the residents are certain the lower courts erred in their decision and will take the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be.

The residents claim the property should revert to them.

The last judge to hear the case, however, Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Martin O'Brien ruled that the trail was legally acquired through the National Trails Act.

The trail, which follows former Conrail tracks, runs from the Route 28 Expressway bridge over Buffalo Creek in Buffalo Township to the Summit line.

Schnur said that if the trail were open in Summit, it would be widely used.

A recent study conducted by the Butler-Freeport Community Trail Council showed that the majority of those who use the trail are people who live nearby. About 26 percent said they use the trail on a daily basis.

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