The case to decide if the Central Kansas Conservancy will be allowed to connect the Meadowlark Trail from north of McPherson to Lindsborg is headed to court — again.

A bench trial to decide whether the conservation group will receive an injunction against area property owners and be allowed to connect the remaining five miles of the recreational trail on land vacated by a railroad is set to start at 9 a.m. Feb. 12 in the main courtroom at the McPherson County courthouse, 117 N. Maple St. in McPherson. The trial was continued from Jan. 22.

The CKC filed suit in late 2015 against Clinton and Kim Sides, who own property just north of Pawnee Road.

Michelle Cullen, president of the CKC board, said in August that the organization has had the deed to the federal right-of-way to finish the trail since 1997.

Phase I of the trail construction included developing the 4-mile trail from Pawnee Road to McPherson. Phase II included nearly 3 miles from Shawnee Road to Lindsborg. What’s left is Phase III, which would connect the two into a 12-mile trail.

“The CKC has the deed to the trail,” Cullen said in August. “The deed allows us to use the corridor vacated by the railroad company as a recreational trail.”

Cullen said Friday she would not comment further until after trial.

In August — the last time the CKC attempted to begin connecting the trail — they were met by opposition, mainly from homeowners in the area.

Clinton Sides at the time argued that the CKC has allowed the corridor to sit idle for too long. He said the Kansas Rails to Trails Act allowed the organization two years to build the trail, not 20 years.

Judge Marilyn M. Widler, who will preside over the trial, previously ruled that the KRTA does not apply and rails-to-trails easements, which are held for public purposes, are immune from statutes of limitations.

Tracy Presnell, who owns property abutting the trail, said landowners have been fighting with the CKC for almost 22 years.

“Our opposition is pretty simple,” Presnell said. “I don’t want a sidewalk or someone throwing any trash in my backyard. I didn’t move to the country to have people walking through my property all the time.” 

The McPherson Sentinel contributed to this report.