We thank the many individuals who have followed the development of this trail idea. Unfortunately, after working the subject for many years and learning all there is to know about it, we have reached the conclusion the City of Columbus, COTA and the Rails to Trail Conservancy have already reached: the private property issue is a no-starter.
Ordinarily, under federal law, when a railroad announces abandonment of a line, a municipal entity may apply through legal means for railbanking. Then, an organization such as our own would step in to raise the cash needed to secure the property without threat of it being sold piecemeal to private land speculators. In the case of the Old Mount Vernon Right-of-Way, the critical 7 mile stretch of rail bed needed for the WAD sold to a private owner in 1998 - while the City of Columbus snored loudly. Now that the land is in private ownership the option to railbank no longer exists.
The 7-mile stretch sold in 1998 for $700,000. Our best reckoning places its value at around $1.2-1.4 million today. The owner, apparently hopeful the land would be snapped up for light-rail, now wants a cool $7 million for it.
The only options available, options which would take the speculative element out of the price, are, 1) eminent domain proceedings on the state or federal level, 2) forclosure on the owner's mortgage, or, 3) death of the owner and dissolution of his estate. (Whether the owner intends to bequeath the land to heirs or assigns is not known.)
This is the waiting game we are currently in.