Lewis Rice Wins $1.5 Million in Compensation for Covington Landowners

Attorneys from Lewis Rice’s Federal Takings & Rails to Trails Practice won $1.5 million in compensation for 47 landowners in Covington, Georgia, who brought takings claims against the federal government. The claim resulted from the conversion of the abandoned Central of Georgia Railroad into the Cricket Frog Trail, a public, 14.9-mile recreational hiking and biking trail, which crossed or trespassed on the landowners’ property.

The landowners sued the federal government when it authorized the conversion of the Central of Georgia Railroad into the Cricket Frog Trail in 2014. They alleged the land underlying the railroad easement belonged to them, and that the conversion of the railroad into a public recreational trail was not authorized under Georgia law.

Following a favorable decision in 2017 finding the federal government liable for taking the landowners’ property, Judge Mary Ellen Coster Williams of the United States Court of Federal Claims held a four-day trial and site visit in Atlanta. The federal government argued the imposition of a public recreational trail over the landowners’ property made their land more valuable. Despite the Court’s finding that the property had been taken, the federal government argued it owed the landowners nothing. 

On Aug. 31, 2021, Judge Williams issued her opinion rejecting the government’s position and agreeing with the landowners’ evidence that imposition of a public recreational trail over their land had diminished the value of their property. As a result of Judge Williams’ decision, the landowners will receive $1.5 million in compensation.

Judge Williams’ opinion can be found here.