OLD LYME — In an unexpected move, the town Department of Public Works trimmed back weeds and cut a swath through the phragmites at Tantummaheag landing Friday morning in an effort to maintain public access to Lord Cove.
Ownership and usage of the tree-lined dirt road and path leading down to the cove have been an ongoing source of conflict between the town and the owners of 12 and 19 Tantummaheag Road — two parcels that sit on either side of the sliver of land the town has said is a longtime public right of way.
“It is our contention that the road has been in effect since early times and there’s obviously a long history of using the road in the 1700s… I think our position is regardless of who owns the real estate under it, the road is a town road and [we] maintain it, so we went down there this morning and did some limited trimming,” First Selectman Tim Griswold told CT Examiner on Friday.
At the August 1 Town Council meeting, town attorney Jack Collins said that preliminary research showed no evidence that the legal title of the right-of-way was ever transferred to Old Lyme. However, deeds and maps indicated that Tantummaheag Landing has long been used by the public as a highway that has been maintained by the town.
At that meeting, Collins said that while awaiting the conclusion of the research, that the town should take “affirmative actions” to enforce its legal rights to Tantummaheag landing. Collins could not be reached on Friday afternoon concerning the maintenance work performed that morning.
The owners of the two adjacent properties, George Frampton and Carla D’Arista, have said their their research showed that the 1935 town survey of the property indicating the location of the 1701 right of way was incorrect and fraudulent because the highway followed a nearby brook to the cove and did not cross 12 Tantummaheag Road. Frampton and D’Arista also said the surveyor made notes admitting that he did not survey the 1701 route and he had created the right of way for the town.
Frampton could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon.
Griswold told CT Examiner that the town’s position is that Tantummaheag Road starts at Route 156 and travels all the way down through the landing to the water as a town road.
He also said that there are a number of town roads that include similar implied rights of way where the land may or may not be owned by the town.
“There’s probably not formal agreements on most of the roads as to who owns the land and an actual easement that the property owners acknowledge,” he said
Griswold said today’s goal was to open up access even though navigating the river on foot can be difficult because of muddy conditions.
“It’s not a nice sandy deal to get out there but at least it’s wide enough for somebody carrying the boat to get out there and hopefully they have tight fitting shoes so they don’t come off.”