Ruby River access granted

Atlanta man loses long legal battle

It's officially legal to get on the Ruby RIver again near Twin Bridges — at least on James Cox Kennedy's property.

Under Montana's stream access law, people can use navigable streams up to the high water mark. The Montana Legislature confirmed in 2009 that the public has access to surface waters by public bridge or county road right-of-way.

District Judge Loren Tucker has created a public access point to the Ruby River after a 12-year fight by an out-of-state landowner who tried to block people from getting to the Ruby River where it flows through his property.

Tucker ruled last week that the easement extends 5 feet on either side of the Seyler Lane bridge near Twin Bridges.

James Cox Kennedy is the chairman of Cox Enterprises. The company is based in Atlanta, and it began buying property along the river in the 1990s. Then it closed access from its land. The Public Land/Water Access Association sued Madison County in 2004 to get it to force the landowner to relinquish public access and remove fences tat he put up.

Usually county roads have a 60-foot public easement that allows for road maintenance. But Judge Tucker ruled in 2012 that the Seyler Lane bridge had no such access point.

Montana's Supreme Court asked Tucker to review the case in 2014. The Montana high court said he must establish a definite width of the public right-of-way so Madison County could maintain the bridge. The county had said it didn't require the access.

This case was the third the association won over access to the Ruby in Madison County. The two other bridges are at Duncan and Lewis lanes, south of Seyler Lane, and also are surrounded by Kennedy's property.


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