Oprah Sued By Her Colorado Neighbors Over Hiking Trail Access

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Media tycoon Oprah Winfrey is in a legal tangle with her new neighbors in Telluride, Colo., who are suing her to maintain their longtime access to public hiking trails across land she recently bought for a sprawling new mansion.

Winfrey is one of several plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by retired 86-year-old nuclear physicist Charles Goodman, who has owned a summer home in Telluride since the 1970s. Goodman negotiated for permanent access to the trails in 1989, according to the Denver Post, when the U.S. Forest Service owned the land. Maintaining that access was part of the deal when the land was sold for residential development.

But Goodman contends that Winfrey cut a last minute deal with the sellers to keep the neighbors off her property. The sellers, as well as the representatives of the small town of Mountain Village, are also named in the suit, for allegedly changing the easements around the trails to appease Winfrey.

“I don’t care if Oprah is a neighbor, but if she is going to cut off access to trails, I don’t find that acceptable,” Goodman told the Denver Post.

Winfrey’s future home will require many changes to the 66-acre site, for which she paid $10.8 million, including the removal of as many as 1,000 trees to meet fire mitigation standards and the construction of a bridge over a ski run at Telluride Ski Resort. Realtors told the Wall Street Journal the property has stunning mountain views and ski-in/ski-out access to the resort.

Chris Hawkins, the community development director for Mountain Village told the Post that the city didn’t change property documents at Winfrey’s request, but instead to correct some ambiguities introduced when the property was re-platted in 2005.

But the Post quotes a Winfrey attorney asking for just that shortly before the sale in March.

“Is this a mistake?” the Post quotes Thomas Kennedy asking in a message about a trail easement. “Buyer requests that Seller obtain a written clarification from the Town that the reference to a trail was inaccurate and that there was not a trail established or created by the recordation of the 2005 replat.

A representative for Winfrey’s company, Yellow Brick Road, told the Post in an email that the entertainment mogul is willing to work with her new neighbors — but stopped short of promising that things would be as they had been for the past 25 years.

“Yellow Brick Road CO LLC will continue to work with the residents of the Ski Ranches HOA to enable them to have reasonable access over portions of the company’s recently acquired property for recreational trail use,” Winfrey spokeswoman Wendy Luckenbill wrote.

“It is our hope that we can work together on a usage plan that is mutually agreeable.”

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