There are questions over who owns land near the railroad tracks that run through Forest Hills Golf Course in La Crosse. BNSF Railway wants to add another track but the city of La Crosse believes the land belongs to them and they have concerns about the expansion.
The current line runs right through two holes on the Forest Hills Golf Course. BNSF Railway wants a new set of tracks to run parallel to the current ones. But both the City of La Crosse and BNSF Railway have records showing they own the land the track would be on.
Wes Snyder has golfed at Forest Hills a lot.
"I had a membership there this year. I put in probably 70 rounds," Snyder said.
But Forest Hills might be changing. The golf course has two holes that go over the BNSF Railway tracks and BNSF wants to expand and have two tracks through the course, but the land the tracks would be on has no clear owner.
"The La Crosse County land records, if you go on land records, shows that it is the city's property including the railroad property," Director of Public Works for La Crosse Dale Hexom said.
The City of La Crosse has documents saying it owns the land and last week BNSF produced their own documents.
"Back in the 1880s, 1890s, when it was a different railroad name and the property was privately owned that they obtained ownership to some of that property," Hexom said.
There are important reasons to find the true owner.
"Its important to establish whos property it is because there are safety concerns," Hexom said.
BNSF released a statement:
"We've been having on going discussions with the city regarding a number of issues, including the property involved and the impact to the golf course. We'll continue to work with the city and local officials as the plans are finalized. Adding the second main track does not mean that traffic will double in La Crosse. It gives us added capacity to more efficiently move the traffic we currently have, which now must pass through La Crosse one train at a time on single track, as well as any increased traffic in the future."
Whether of not the new line goes in, if changes are made golfers like Snyder are going to miss quite a few rounds.
"It would be a disappointment to the city and to golfers, local golfers, cause its a great course," Snyder said.
The City of La Crosse is now contacting title companies for prices on a titles and record search. The search will hopefully produce conclusive evidence as to who owns the land.
The city said another reason it's important to establish who owns the property is for safety reasons around the railroad tracks.