For 29 years, David Simon has been going for walks on a reservoir trail near his house that leads to open space and a scenic panorama of Healdsburg and its surroundings.
But last weekend, the retired businessman said he was confronted by representatives for the property owner in a pick-up who told him to stay off the land. An arriving sheriff's deputy also warned him he was trespassing and said he would be subject to arrest if he did it again.
Although it might appear to be nothing more than an open-and-shut case of a private property owner asserting his rights, Simon and many others who walk their dogs, hike or bike on the property at the end of Sunnyvale Drive are baffled at the apparent sudden change in the owner's attitude toward them.
Healdsburg Open Space Dispute
“I'm just irate,” said Simon, who like others questions whether the public has established a right to traverse the land after so many years of doing so.
“I understand it's private property,” said Simon, but “there should be some accommodation made,” for people to use it for recreation.
“It's been a part of the community that's walked there forever,” said Kevin West, a hotel manager who walks his dog to the reservoir most mornings.
He said people who have gone there for decades are “completely flabbergasted,” as to why they are being shooed off the land now.
North County Supervisor Mike McGuire said Wednesday that he's had more than a dozen phone calls to his office on the issue and the City of Healdsburg has had a significant response from the public as well.
“This is a storied property,” McGuire said, describing it as special to the city's past and future.
“For over 30 years, residents have been hiking on this gorgeous overlook,” he said. “On the east side you have the Russian River and on the west, beautiful views of downtown Healdsburg.”