“Public Use” in Jeopardy on Some Virginia Public Waters

By Beau Beasley, Rapidan TU Chapter Member, for Orvis News

In June 2010, Dargan Coggeshall and Charlie Crawford decided to fish on the Jackson River near the home of Dr. John Feldenzer, a surgeon from Roanoke, Virginia. However, Matt Sponaugle — owner of the housing development called River’s Edge, who had sold the riverfront property to the Feldenzers — insisted that the anglers leave that section of the river immediately. He pointed to the No Trespassing signs posted on the banks of both sides of the river indicating that neither fishing nor wading was allowed there. Coggeshall, who had fished that part of the Jackson for years prior to the home being built, countered that his map, issued by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, listed this section of the Jackson River as public property.

Eventually, Sponaugle called for an Alleghany County deputy sheriff to check the anglers’ fishing licenses. The deputy found that their licenses were in order and, because the state said that they had a right to be there, refused to arrest them. Undeterred, Sponaugle tried to sue the anglers in criminal court; the case was dropped, however, because the court found the ownership of the river in dispute. Now Feldenzer and Sponaugle are suing the anglers in civil court — to the tune of $10,000 apiece — for trespassing. ………READ MORE

This article was originally printed by Chesapeake Bay Journal and was been reprinted by Orvis News with permission of the author.

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