BUCKFIELD – The town has filed a civil suit in a longstanding conflict with the owner of land on Depot Street.

In a case filed on Dec. 18 in Oxford County Superior Court, Buckfield names Roger E. Bennett in a complaint, alleging that he is inhibiting the extension of the town’s recreational trail. Bennett and town officials have disagreed in the past over the property.

According to the complaint by town attorney Geoffrey H. Hole, the town is using a half-acre property off Depot Street to extend a recreational trail and wants to construct fences around portions of the property, which used to be a railroad bed. Hole states that a vehicle on Bennett’s land is intruding onto the town property.

“While the property formerly owned by Maine Central Railroad (the ‘Railroad Property’) is described as a ‘right of way’ in the deed to Bennett, the railroad property has not been described as such since at least 1953,” the complaint states.

Bennett was deeded the Depot Street property in 2000.

According to documents from the Registry of Deeds enclosed in the court file, the Maine Central Railroad Co. issued a quit claim deed in 1953 giving the property to Earl and Kathleen Casey of Buckfield. The Caseys transferred the property, as well as a railroad caboose, to Gilbert W. Tilton of Buckfield in 1967.

In 1998, Tilton’s estate deeded the property to the Streaked Mountaineers snowmobile club, which turned over the property to the town in 2005.

In each document, the railroad company is given access to the property to maintain the pole line and wire crossings. In the 1953 document, the company also reserves the right to remove a railroad bridge over the Twenty-Mile River, which abuts the property.

According to the town’s Web site, the recreational trail goes from Hebron to Sumner and may be used for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and ATV riding.

Hole requests that the court declare the town the sole owner of the property and find that Bennett has no rights to the land. He also asks that the town be awarded “such other relief as justice may require.”

Bennett has unsuccessfully sought election as selectmen in the town each year since at least 2004.

According to court documents, Bennett was taken to court by the town in 2005 for violation of a junkyard ordinance.

Bennett has claimed that he owns land opposite the former railroad bed and that development on the property will hinder his access to the property. In a handwritten response included in the court file, Bennett questions how much of the 66-foot wide trail the town owns.

He cites an 1855 deed on the property, which is referenced in the 1953 deed, saying it is not clear how much of the land was sold and how much was taken by eminent domain.

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