A property dispute in Central Bridge in the last year has forced or canceled the annual Easter Egg hunt, winter softball games, snow sculpting contest, among other events and the problem may not be solved anytime soon.
The land that the Central Bridge Civic Association used to build a pavilion, snack bar and basketball court many years ago is owned by the Seebold family and the land used to enter the association’s ball field is partially owned by the Seebolds.
Vegetable farmer Bill Seebold said Monday that members of the association knew that fact for years but members of the association said they did not know until recently.
The issue came to a head recently when the Central Bridge Sewer District installed a substation on land that officials thought was owned by the association but actually belonged to the Seebolds.
Association member Susan James said last week that the Seebolds are not allowing people to enter the field and have threatened those using the normal entrance with trespass charges.
She noted that the association got a grant and building permit in the early 1980s to build the pavilion and snack bar.
“They [the Seebolds] should have said something,” she said.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I never knew that strip belonged to that farm,” she said.
The lack of a proper entranceway has forced the association to move the annual winter softball games to Doc Reilly Park in the Town of Cobleskill, the annual Easter Egg hunt to a church, and effectively canceled the softball season, she said.
Members cannot even get things out of the concession stand, she said.
Mr. Seebold said association officials have known that they did not own the land.
“They’ve known from day one,” he said.
He said they asked for permission to put up the pavilion and snack bar and have asked permission to hold other events and make other changes.
Frank Lawyer, the former president of the association who recently resigned, said the property definitely belongs to the Seebolds, who have “every right to get angry,” though according to Schoharie County tax maps, it belongs to the association.
The association mistakenly gave an easement to the sewer district to build the substation.
Four or five years ago, Mr. Seebold and his brother Tom asked the association to get their own insurance policy but the association did not comply until about six months ago.
It is very difficult to get farm insurance and the brothers did not want to be liable, Mr. Seebold said.
The association is not landlocked and could build another entrance to the ball field, he said.
It would be difficult and expensive to build an entrance on the bank leading from Route 30A to the field, Ms. James said.
Ms. James said some association members have talked to the Seebolds and Mr. Lawyer said “offers have been passed back and forth and not accepted.”
Mr. Seebold said that land is an important part of their vegetable farm. It is a back entrance and needed for egress.
He said he has spoken with officials from both the towns of Schoharie and Esperance, engineers, neighbors and others to resolve the problem.
Association members are meeting tonight to further discuss the land dispute and the sewer district is holding a public hearing on July 1 on whether to take the Seebold parcel through eminent domain.
Mr. Seebold said he will not be going to the hearing.
He said he did not take legal action against the towns and “now they’re going to bully me into taking it…You’re going to take my back door. I need that egress.”
Ms. James said, “Hopefully all this will be worked out soon.”
Mr. Lawyer said the dispute has been a good thing since it has returned “the community park to the community.”
In addition to the association, the Seebolds have allowed the fire department to use their land.
“We are very civic-minded,” Mr. Seebold said.