Estabrook Road
Estabrook Road

Estabrook Road defendants intend to appeal court’s access decision

By Margaret Carroll-Bergman

A Notice of Appeal by the defendants in the Estabrook Road lawsuit was filed in Massachusetts Land Court recently, putting the town of Concord on notice about their intention to appeal the court’s decision allowing public access on the trail portion of Estabrook Road.

Land Court Judge Howard P. Speicher found that while the Middlesex County Commissioners discontinued the road in 1932, that action had ended the “Town’s obligation to maintain Estabrook Road, but not the public’s right to access and use it.”

The defendants are Neil E. Rasmussen, Anna Rasmussen, Brooks S. Read and Susannah Kay; Russell Robb, Leslee Robb, and Thomas Wray Falwell, Trustees of the Pippin Tree Land Trust; and the President and Fellows of Harvard College disagree.

The judge’s ruling ends a five-year lawsuit in Massachusetts Land Court between the Town of Concord and abutters on Estabrook Road who claim the road is their own private property. The town has spent $1.59-million on the lawsuit it filed on Oct. 24, 2017.

The Select Board wrote in an announcement posted on the town’s website, “The Select Board hopes that the Land Court’s comprehensive decision can persuade the defendants to move away from a litigating position and toward a cooperative approach to managing public use of the trail. While we were disappointed to learn that the defendants have moved to appeal the decision, the Select Board continues to welcome the landowners’ input in continuing to preserve Estabrook trail as an important public resource for all.”

One of the abutters to the trail, Anna West Rasmussen of 393 Estabrook Road, wrote in an email to The Concord Bridge, that “In summer of 2016, the property owners offered the Town a license for public use of their private residential property; in fall of 2016 they offered the Town a Memorandum of Agreement, and in 2018 they offered the Town an additional settlement offer. The Town’s lawyers rejected all three offers and chose to sue Harvard College and the residential families instead.”

Another family whose land abuts the trail, Brooks Read and Susannah Kay of 366 Estabrook Road, wrote in an email, “We believe that the court’s decision is legally wrong. We will continue to fight for legally appropriate full control of our private property as designated in the plain language of the statute used to discontinue Estabrook Road, and as applied to every similarly discontinued road in the state.”

The Notice of Appeal, filed on Dec. 6, also includes “all preceding decrees, adjudications, or appealable orders; and, if and the extent it represents a separately appealable order, the Corrected Decision issued by the Court on November 23, 2022.”