NY's Top Court Considers Private Land Stream Access Case

Mar 24, 2016

New York's highest court will decide a case pitting landowners' property rights against the public's right to paddle down a stream through private land.

The Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Thursday in the trespassing lawsuit against Phil Brown, who canoed through private land in the Adirondacks and wrote about it in 2009.

Lower courts held that a waterway is open to the public if it's navigable for commerce or recreation. The landowners argue this stream is too small to fall under common law navigation rights.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation and several environmental groups support Brown. The Property Rights Foundation of America and Empire State Forest Products Association support the landowners, Brandreth Park Association and Friends of Thayer Lake.

A court decision is expected within six weeks.

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