In response to the article “Robert Hamm fights to keep ATVs off his Mexico land” (Sun Journal, July 14), unfortunately, it may be Hamm who is not respecting the law.

Like most jurisdictions that inherited British Common Law, Maine recognizes “adverse title.” That is the situation where a trespasser can acquire property rights if the trespass continues for a long enough period of time — usually 20 years. That can involve a whole piece of land, or rights affecting a portion of a property. The trespasser can be a single individual (a squatter), or a number of individuals, as in the case of a right of way “dedicated” to the public by continued unimpeded trespass.

The article stated that the trail had been in use since the 1930s. I remember walking that trail in the 1950s, and as late as the 1990s was skiing and biking along it. There is an excellent chance that the 20-year period has long since passed. The right of way is a “burden” on the title to the land which passes to successive owners. The clock does not begin to tick anew when the land is sold. The new owner takes the land with its “burden.”

It is possible that Hamm is interfering with a public right of way. His barricades may be public nuisances. The biggest problem is that it will require a private individual to enforce that public right through the courts.

How about a public official enforcing a public right? The attorney general, perhaps?

David Bulger, Cornwall, P.E.I., Canada

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