Grass along railroad needs a trim, but whose grass is it?

‘We are supposed to do it, but cannot get close enough to do it,’ town manager says

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A verbal agreement concerning landscaping maintenance along CSX Railroad rights-of-way along Center Street has too many limitations, officials say.

Mount Olive leaders recently had a telephone conference with railroad authorities concerning maintenance along the railroad from Talton Avenue south to County Road. The railroad had offered to allow the town to provide the maintenance for payment, but said no work could be done within 25 feet of the tracks.

Town Manager Charles Brown said that creates a problem, because that is the area where the trimming is needed.

The growth along the stretch through downtown Mount Olive has been an eyesore for years.

Brown said the issue surfaced during conversations with real estate personnel of the railroad.

“We wanted to get their attention on who is actually responsible for the maintenance along the tracks,” the town manager said.

Maintenance pertains to mowing the grass, Brown explained.

He went on to say the real estate personnel representing the railroad had real estate contracts and documents dating back to 1924, 1937 and 1976.

It turns out that the maintenance of the railroad track from Park Avenue north to Talton Avenue is the responsibility of the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Brown said.

The section from Park Avenue, south to College Street is the town’s responsibility, but the town cannot get within 25 feet of the track to mow the grass.

He said the vegetation growth is about 15 feet from the track.

“In a nutshell, we are supposed to do it, but cannot get close enough to do it,” Brown said.

He further explained it is the same situation from Pollock Street south to County Road.

Brown also said the railroad claims “it comes through three times a year to do it.”

“Maybe they do, but I have not been witness to that,” he added.

Another issue is between Park Avenue and Talton Avenue, where Brown says there is a tremendous amount of debris that creates an unsightly situation.

Old crossties and other matter is stacked along that area.

“We have asked that they at least get that up. Some of it stacked across from the fire department has been there about four years,” Brown said.

Town leaders are hoping the railroad will help them clean up the mess along the tracks.

But another issue lies in the railroad rights-of-way, which extends to the front doors of every business along the town’s business district.

Railroad rights of way extend 65 feet from the center of the railroad track on both sides, Brown said. The railroad owns the property right up to the front door of the stores.

The bottom line, according to the town manager, is the issue is right back to where it began.

“We are still trying to move up the chain and see if there is anything else we can do,” he said. “I am sure we will have some more conversations.”

The issue remains for now, however. “They will allow us to mow the grass, but we can’t get close enough to do it,” Brown added.

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