A Superior Court judge issued two rulings this week that favor the state in its lawsuit with Channel Construction over public access on two roads near Eagle Beach.
Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks ruled Tuesday the state does have an easement on the Herbert River Truck Road. And the judge said landowner Channel Construction bears the burden of proving that the state's easement on Boy Scout Camp Road has reverted to the company.
Trial on that issue is set for April 29, 2002.
The state's lawsuit and a countersuit by Channel arose after company owner William Tonsgard last October placed a locked gate across Boy Scout Camp Road. The road leads to 147 acres owned by Channel, as well as a public trail, public waterfront land and a 200-acre Boy Scout Camp. Tonsgard gave the Boy Scouts a key to the gate.
Channel removed the gate in late December, saying the road would remain open until the lawsuit was decided.
The state says it has an easement for public rights-of-way on that road and Herbert River Truck Road, also on Channel's property. The company contends the state lost those easements by not maintaining the roads, as property deeds dating from the mid-1930s require.
Weeks, in his ruling, said the state has established its easement on Herbert River Truck Road by long and uninterrupted public use.
"The people have been out there; they've been using it," said Assistant Attorney General Peter Putzier in an interview. "The owner knew or should have known."
Weeks also said Channel has the burden of going forward with the lawsuit and persuading the court that the state's right-of-way reverted to it.
That's an advantage to the state, Putzier said, because Channel will have to come forward with evidence and prove its case.
"We don't have to prove there's a valid easement. They have to prove there's been a reversion," he said.
Channel's attorney, Daniel Hickey of Anchorage, said he hadn't seen the ruling and couldn't comment on it.
Eric Fry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.