Trail Easements

Trail Easements

Do you want to:

  • Create a lasting legacy for your community?
  • Provide public trail access on your land to help improve your community?
  • Permanently protect your trail as a vital community resource?

If so, a Trail Easement is the right tool for you!

“A trail easement is a perpetual legal agreement that allows others to use someone’s land in the manner provided for within the easement.  An easement can be very broad, granting access to the easement holder and the public, or it can restrict what kind of access, when and under what conditions access can be used. For instance, the easement can be for public access to an entire property, or it could be restricted to certain users on a trail of a certain width. An easement can be for hiking only, bicycling, horseback riding; whatever uses the parties agree to, limited or expanded to the extent they decide.”  (Adapted from Creating Greenways: A Citizens Guide, May 2007).

Trail Easement FAQs

The trail easement is signed by the grantor (the landowner) and the grantee (the organization which holds the easement), notarized and recorded at the County Registry of Deeds (NH) or Town Offices (VT). The trail corridor remains the property of the owner and can be transferred or sold but the trail easement is perpetual. Once a trail easement is recorded, it exists forever as part of the deed, even if the landowner sells the property.

The conveyance of a trail access easement will not change a landowner’s exposure to liability. In all cases, landowners who permit public access to their property at no cost are shielded from liability by Vermont (Vermont State Statutes) and NH (New Hampshire State Statutes)  state law.

  • UVTA will set up an initial meeting to discuss the landowner’s goals, walk the trails and collect GPS data.
  • The trail location and nearby property boundaries will be defined and mapped, and sources deeds and surveys (if available) will be researched and collected.
  • UVTA and the landowner will customize the legal trail easement documents to meet the needs of both parties, and will agree on a maintenance plan for the trail.
  • The landowner, if they choose, will have the legal document reviewed by an attorney.
  • The document is then signed, notarized and recorded.

A trail easement is a legal interest in land. Therefore, if you are considering conveying a trail easement to us, you may wish to engage the services of an attorney to review the document. Aside from possible legal expenses there are no costs to the landowner but the costs to UVTA to manage the complete process of a trail easement can costs up to $5,000. Any donation to UVTA to cover the costs of the easement is considered tax deductible.

UVTA and the landowner will discuss management of the trail. Depending on the situation, UVTA will assume management of the trail or work in partnership with the town or another organization or community group to assign trail management. Regardless of who has management responsibilities, UVTA staff will visit the property annually to ensure compliance with the easement.

No, UVTA trail easements do not qualify under federal law for a tax deduction. The few conservation covenants utilized in its trail easement are governed purely by Vermont and NH law which help the trail easement be stronger, more meaningful and enforceable. However, any funds you donate to UVTA for its trail maintenance fund or other operations likely qualify as charitable contributions and are tax deductible.

If land conservation is of interest to you or broad-spectrum public access along with land conservation, we are happy to put you in touch with qualified organizations in your region.

If you are interested in discussing a trail easement project please contact: 

Russ Hirschler, Executive Director at russell.hirschler@uvtrails.org.