Landowner fights snowmachiners' fees

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2002

An East End Road landowner who has been battling in court for years to keep snowmachiners off his property has been told to pay $13,000 for his unsuccessful legal fight.

In court papers filed March 4, Tom Price said he is being charged for simply putting up "no trespassing" signs, and wants Superior Court Judge Harold Brown to strike down the court-ordered payment.

But attorney Mike Hough, who represents plaintiffs Mike Eastham and members of the Snomads snowmachine club, said Price has himself to blame for his bills. Price, a surveyor, represented himself.

"He created an awful lot of undue pleading and court time because of his ignoring court rules and repeatedly ignoring suggestions made by Judge Brown," Hough said.

Snowmachiners historically have used the seismic trail that runs from McNeil Canyon Elementary School to the Caribou Hills for access to the backcountry. It cuts across 160 acres Price bought in 1978. For years he did not complain, but as traffic increased, he begin putting up signs.

After unsuccessful attempts to work out a different route, the Snomads and Eastham sued in 1999 to use the old trail. In 2000, Brown ruled in their favor, citing previous public use.

He also nixed Price's request for a retrial. Price has appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court, and if he prevails there would not be liable for the plaintiffs' legal fees.

In the meantime, Brown approved the plaintiffs' request for legal expenses, which Hough said worked out to more than $40,000. Brown cut that to $11,243 by using a prescribed formula. Hough also received about $2,000 in additional court fees.

Price declined to comment on his pending legal action.

Joel Gay is a reporter at the Homer News.

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