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Sacramento River Bike Trail Plans Spark Levee Land Battle

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- The City of Sacramento wants to construct a bike trail connecting the Pocket to downtown, but some of the land is on private property and many of the residents don't want to sell.

Just beyond the gates of his backyard, Don Murphy owns 534 feet of levee top property overlooking the Sacramento River, and he wants to hold on to it.

"I have family. I have grandchildren. This property of ours is not just a home on a lot, it's a family estate and I expect it to be handed down through the generations to my family" Murphy said.

Murphy purchased his home back in 1999, and according to the deed, he's only required to allow levee access for maintenance and flood control.

Murphy pays taxes on the land, and even built a boathouse on it. And while it's his private property, he's never stopped people from walking on it.

But last year the city sent appraisers by to come up with a price to offer Murphy and eight of his neighbors to sell the easements to make way for a bike trail.

The trail would extend from Garcia Bend Park to Arabella Way.

City Councilman Rick Jennings who represents the Pocket and Greenhaven area is its biggest supporter. He says the trail would promote healthy living and beautify the area. Jennings recently got the city council to earmark $2.3 million in this year's budget to purchase the levee land from the owners.

"We're talking to them about the importance of why we think it's good to open it up for everyone as opposed to keeping it closed off with fences and not allowing anyone to have access to it," he said in a phone interview with CBS13.

Murphy says the city's plan is far from fair.

"If you owned private property, would you want to relinquish that because somebody wants to build a bike trail?" he said.

Murphy believes the issue may ultimately wind up in court as an eminent domain lawsuit where he and his neighbors may be forced to settle on a selling price.

"That could be long and ugly, but I'm not going to roll over," he said.

Jennings says it's way too early in the process to start talking lawsuits and he hopes he can work things out with residents before it reaches that point.

He says the levee has to be proven safe first before any bike trail construction can begin, and that process is at least two years down the road.

Murphy says the city has yet to make him an official money offer for the land, but he says he doubts it will be enough for him to ever consider selling.

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