By Julie Ann Madden
“(Appley-Von Hagel Wetlands access) is a simple problem,” Doug Maurstad of rural Alcester explained to the Akron councilors at their April 23 meeting.
“We’re not doing this out of spite,” said Maurstad about the decision to post “No Trespassing” signs across the Wetlands’ entrance off S.D. Highway 48, just west of the Big Sioux River bridge.
“We’re not doing this out of any other reason except to protect our interests,” he said, “and that is concerning liabilities on somebody getting hurt on our property.”
“Until such time as we reach an agreement (with city officials), it’s going to remain that way,” said Maurstad.
He, and his wife, Cathy, met with Akron City Attorney David Stuart, Mayor Harold Higman Jr. and others just prior to the council meeting.
“When we had the property surveyed last fall, we found there were no easements or agreements between the city and (Cathy’s mother who owned the property before the Maurstads inherited it),” he informed the council.
“We don’t show there is an easement to provide you and the people of Akron or anybody else who wants to come in there through our property,” said Maurstad. “If somebody has an accident or gets hurt, it’s not the City of Akron that gets sued, it’s going to be us.”
“That’s the reason for the ‘No Trespassing’ signs,” said he said, noting they came to the council meeting to introduce themselves, explain what they were doing, answer questions and dispel any misinformation or rumors that have been circulated.
Maurstad noted a person had sent an email around asking people to contact the Union County Commissioners to make Maurstad remove the signs.
“It won’t be (the Commission’s) problem until we reach an impasse with the City of Akron,” said Maurstad, noting Stuart and Higman are working with them on a contingent basis for the city to provide insurance protection for the Maurstads for people crossing their property.
“Until that happens, it remains as it is,” said Maurstad. “It’s off limits. It’s no trespassing.”
“In such matters as this, as with all matters of the city in handles something, we refer to (our city attorney),” Higman explained to the council. “He makes sure everything is done for the City of Akron properly so it’s in the books and historically proper for future generations so Dave is handling this.”
“At this point, the lines of communication are open between (city officials and the Maurstads),” said Stuart, explaining city officials are researching property ownership, conducting title and easement searches through Union County Abstract.
“Some of that property is confusing back in the river area,” he said. “Over the course of time — who owns what, if some of the property was by river accretion — we’re just figuring out where everything lays, where the boundaries are.”
City officials are also researching ownership of the old S.D. Highway 48, which used to run from the west end of Reed Street through the wetland area to the existing highway, he added. Officials are trying to determine if the State of South Dakota or Union County owns it or was it vacated.
“We’re just going to continue to work with the Maurstads and move forward with that,” said Stuart. “One of the goals from the city’s standpoint is because the land was donated to the city for public benefit and because we operate that as a wetland area, ore of an unimproved area for a city park, we want the general public to have access to that again.”
“But, we also want to be considerate to the Maurstads and any problems that may cause them or any liabilities they may have,” he said. “We should be able to have a resolution for everyone pretty quickly.”