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Fight Over Trail Access in Southern California

VENTURA, Calif. (CN) - A community group sued a family trust to try to preserve public access to the Matilija Canyon Trail in Ventura County, which provides the only access to the Matilija Falls.

The group, Keep Access to Matilija Falls Open, sued the Shull Bonsall Family Trust on Jan. 12 in Ventura County Court.

Keep Access claims that outdoors enthusiasts have hiked to Matilija Falls on the Matilija Canyon Trail for more than a century. The trail crosses public and private land in Los Padres National Forest, and also provides access to back country.

The Shull Bonsall Family Trust owns two parcels that hikers must cross to reach the falls. Keep Access claims that in 2010 the trust posted signs at the trailhead, barring public access to the trail, and still maintain the signs.

Keep Access claims that the public, and its members, used the trail for years without asking for or receiving permission and without objections or interference from anyone, until the trust posted the signs 2010.

The group seeks declaratory judgment and an injunction granting nonexclusive recreational easements to use the trail across the properties, compelling the defendants to remove the signs to block public use of the trail, and prohibiting them from interfering with public access to the trail.

Keep Access to Matilija Falls Open is represented by William Slaughter and Gabriele Lashly, with Slaughter, Reagan & Cole, in Ventura.

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