Old Gamber Road may lead to court Purported owner balks after couple erects barrier

July 12, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

FINSBURG — FINKSBURG -- This is the road that was part of the land belonging to Jacob Caple in the mid-19th century.

And this is the controversy about the road that Mr. Caple may have owned, but whose present ownership is somewhat obscure.

"It's a bizarre situation," said Anne Weinberg, 72, who with her husband, Harold, a retired surgeon, bought 70 acres of land on both sides of the road in 1968. "One neighbor keeps trying to close one end of the road, and another wants to keep it open, while neither one has the right to do anything with it because it is our property."

Not so, said Atlee Edrington, one of Mr. Caple's descendants.

"I have a deed that says the road was donated to my great-great-grandfather, Jacob Caple," said Mr. Edrington, a retired construction superintendent who lives in Westminster. "The land was passed down for five generations before it ended up in my hands."

The road in question -- little more than a long gravel-and-rock-laden driveway -- has had four names, including its current one, Old Gamber Road. Surrounded by thick woods between the more-traveled Hughes and Old Gamber roads, the road is neither claimed nor maintained by the county.

But it suffers from more than proprietary and identity crises. Because of its isolation, the road has been a popular spot for partyers, vandals and litterbugs.

The Nicholsons, who live on the road, put a nearly 4-foot-high blockade of tree stumps across the road near their property, which blocks traffic going toward or coming in from Hughes Road. Mr. Edrington has been trying to get the county to prevent anyone from closing it off at any point.

Keith Kirschnick, director of public works, said that because the road is not a county road, the matter probably would have to be settled in a civil suit.

But Mr. Edrington believes the Nicholsons' barrier denies him access to his property, a triangular parcel of land along the middle of the road that is easier to get to from the Hughes Road entrance.

"We're not trying to bar anyone from using it. I've got two grandchildren who will eventually live there. I just want to make sure they have a way to get off of their property," said Mr. Edrington, whose land is not developed now.

Sandy Nicholson, a secretary at South Carroll Backhoe Inc., said she was told by the county that as long as she did not deny access to the road, there would be no trouble.

"We are not denying access because people can get in and out of the road by using the other [south] end," she said.

Mrs. Nicholson, whose husband, Dan, erected the road's barriers, said Mr. Edrington doesn't have to worry about the problems that opening the road would present, since he doesn't live on the road at all.

"We have traffic coming through here all the time, sometimes at 40 miles an hour," said Mrs. Nicholson, 27. "With the rocks flying everywhere when people speed by, it is dangerous for the children who are playing in their yards."

She noted that several of the families have small children; her son, Brad, 4, is the oldest.

Shelley Rouchard, a mother of three children under 7 years old who also lives on the road, said it is frightening for a homeowner when strangers wander around the road. She agrees that the end of the road should be closed.

"My husband and I were driving up Hughes Road by the entrance to our street and there were two men there snorting cocaine," said Mrs. Rouchard. "This is not the type of thing I want to see going on down the street from my home."

And the property needs to be protected, Mrs. Nicholson said. "There is no other house next to ours. Someone could come up here, clean out our house and drive back down that road without anyone ever seeing a thing."

Mr. Weinberg said he appreciates what the Nicholsons are doing, and while they don't care whether the entrance is closed or open, he and his wife do not want people to continue to dump and party on the property. They are selling a lot overlooking the Hughes Road entrance to discourage partyers from gathering where they can be seen.

But the ultimate decision about what happens to the land rests with the owner, which Mr. Weinberg contends he is.

"I've had professionals look into this matter and they all agree the road is mine," said Mr. Weinberg. "This is not Mr. Edrington's property . . . I have spent my time and money with lawyers, engineers and surveyors, who all told me what I already knew."

Mr. Edrington's not so sure.

"I don't believe anyone else owns any part of that road at all. That land was put into my hands many years ago," he said. "Everybody else is coming into this 50 years or so after the fact."

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