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October 25, 2021

Granite Quarry rescinds bike trail property lease, will post no trespassing signs

SALISBURY — In a pair of unanimous decisions this week, the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen agreed to end its lease with the Granite Quarry Athletic Club on a 10-acre property hosting mountain bike trails and to warn people off while it reviews its liability on the property.

The decision to end the lease was made at the request of the athletic club, which allowed an insurance policy it maintained on the property to lapse, citing concerns about the town’s support of the club’s efforts. The land is in the 2400 block of Faith Road, near its intersection with Heilig Road.

During the town Board of Aldermen’s regular meeting on Monday members were presented with the recommendation. A memo summarizing the agenda item said staff were asked to place the issue on the agenda for discussion and were advised to cancel the agreement for the time being.

The athletic club has representation on the board. Alderman Jim Constantino is the president of the club. Mayor Bill Feather is a member as well.

The initial motion to end the agreement, made by Mayor Pro Tem John Linker, also gave the club 30 days to remove materials from the property. Town attorney Chip Short told the board the motion would end any liability concerns for the town. At that point, Short also advised the board it may be a good decision to post no trespassing signs.

“Do we really want to stop that property from being used?” Alderman Doug Shelton asked. “I don’t know if we have a lot of use going on in it right now.”

Linker expressed concern that he doesn’t know what condition the trails are in and suggested the board consider the property’s future use during its annual board retreat next year.

Constantino said the property has a lot of potential and the club would like to work with the town in a joint effort in the future.

Alderman Kim Cress reiterated the point about existing liability concern on the property and its future should be considered later.

Shelton questioned whether the trail is different from other town property where bicycles are ridden.

Short said the issue is a question for the town’s insurers.

“If they view it as the same as all the other parks, the town may be all right,” Short said. “I would not view it that way. The reason the athletic club was required to get insurance is the same reason we need to be sure the town is covered.”

Short recommended the property be inspected and the insurers be on board before reopening the trails.

The initial motion to rescind the lease passed 4-0. Then, Shelton made the motion to post signs until the liability issue has been addressed with insurance, which also passed 4-0. Feather only votes to break ties.

The athletic club and Feather have questioned whether the property requires an insurance policy to offer free access to the public. The town initially leased the 10-acre property to the club for $1 per-year on a three-year term in 2019.

The club purchased commercial insurance policies for the property. The 2019 policy cost $865. Feather said the policy now has a cost of $1,000.

In a letter submitted to run in the Post, Feather pointed to North Carolina General Statutes on trail use liability. The statute says anyone in control of land that allows others to use it for trail purposes with no compensation owes the person “the same duty of care he owes a trespasser.”

On the duty of care or liability for injury to trespassers, state statute said owners, lessees or other occupants have none.

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