This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
of Natural Resources,
Redwood County District Court
File No. C69852
J. Brian O’Leary, O’Leary & Moritz, Chartered, 102 North Marshall, Box 76, Springfield, MN 56087 (for respondent)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, David P. Iverson, Assistant Attorney General, Suite 900, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) challenges the district court’s determination that a disputed roadway is statutorily dedicated under Minn. Stat. § 160.05, subd. 1 (1998). We reverse.
On appeal from a judgment in a case tried without a jury, this court’s scope of review is confined to determining whether the district court’s findings are clearly erroneous and whether it erred in its legal conclusions. Schweich v. Ziegler, Inc., 463 N.W.2d 722, 729 (Minn. 1990); Foster v. Bergstrom, 515 N.W.2d 581, 585 (Minn. App. 1994). If the district court’s findings are “reasonably supported by the evidence as a whole, or not manifestly contrary to the weight of the evidence, the findings must be affirmed.” Foster, 515 N.W.2d at 585.
DNR argues the district court erred in finding the disputed roadway is a Township public road by virtue of statutory dedication. Under Minn. Stat. § 160.05, subd. 1 (1998), dedication of a road requires “(1) use by the public and (2) maintenance by an appropriate government agency (3) over a continuous period of at least six years.” Foster, 515 N.W.2d at 585-86 (emphasis added) (citing Shinneman v. Arago Township, 288 N.W.2d 239, 242 (Minn. 1980)); see also Anderson v. Birkeland, 229 Minn. 77, 80, 38 N.W.2d 215, 218 (1949) (indicating statute requires: (1) use by public, and (2) maintenance at government expense, (3) over a continuous period of at least six years).
The proponent of statutory dedication bears the burden of proof. Ravenna Township v. Grunseth, 314 N.W.2d 214, 217 (Minn. 1981). The burden of proof is met only by clear and convincing evidence. Foster, 515 N.W.2d at 586. On appeal, this court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the district court’s findings. Ravenna, 314 N.W.2d at 217.
DNR concedes that over the years the public sporadically used the disputed roadway for hauling purposes and to access the Minnesota River. DNR argues that the evidence fails to establish the roadway was maintained for the requisite six-year period, as mandated by Minn. Stat. § 160.05, subd. 1. We agree.
According to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the effect of § 160.05, subd. 1, is to “declare public those roads which have been used and kept in repair for a period of 6 years continuously.” Leeper v. Hampton Hills, Inc., 290 Minn. 143, 146, 187 N.W.2d 765, 767 (1971). A review of the record reveals that while the Township may have graveled and/or graded the disputed roadway during the late 1920’s, no more than four years of maintenance are substantiated. Because the Township failed to satisfy the six-year requirement of the statute, the district court erred in finding statutory dedication.
The district court also found that a 1902 road order established the disputed roadway. But the record shows that the Township’s 1902 road order makes no mention of the disputed roadway, a fact the Township conceded at oral argument.