Little River tuber fined for trespassing
By Iva Butler | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Townsend city judge has fined a tuber on Little River for leaving the water and entering private property.
Judge Chris Ralls found tuber Anthony Danico, 20, guilty of trespassing on Ye Ole Mill Campground property and fined him $25 and court costs in Townsend City Court Thursday afternoon.
Townsend police officer Tony Rayburn cited Danico, a University of Tennessee student from Morristown, and some of his friends with trespassing on June 23 after receiving a complaint from property owners Travis and Jeremiah Grant.
Robert G. Williams, the campground manager, testified that he told a group of tubers that included Danico that they could not exit at the campground, which is private property.
“I told them to go up river,” he said.
Williams also said he asked them to leave their tubes or sunglasses with him and go get the $2 that each tuber is charged to go around the dam on campground property.
Danico did not want to do that and told his friends to leave the river on the property, although there were 10 to 15 no-trespassing signs posted, Williams testified.
Wears Dam, which is estimated at 8 to 10 feet high, crosses the river on campground property, he added.
Defense attorney Joe Nicholson tried to present Ralls with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers list of navigable waterways in Tennessee, which incudes Little River.
Ralls would not accept the corps as being a legal authority on which rivers are officially classified as navigable.
If the river is officially navigable, users would have the right to portage around an obstruction, such as the Wears Dam, Nicholson said.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Officer Matt Cameron paraphrased the U.S. Coast Guard definition as a navigational waterway or river being one historically used for trade before the dams were built.
A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman said that the U.S. Corps of Engineers listed what waterways are navigable.
During the trial, Williams testified that if Danico had given him some money to cross the property, “he would have been a customer of ours and covered by our insurance.”
He estimated Danico was on the property “maybe five minutes.”
Williams testified Danico “was cussing the whole way through (the campground).”
Williams said he had already called his boss and went back to work at the campground after Danico left the property.
Owns River Rage
Travis Grant testified that he purchased the four-acre Ye Ole Mill Campground in August 2011. Grant said his family has owned property on the river since 1979.
The Grants also own River Rage tubing and Little River Barbecue, which are adjacent to the campground.
“I have no-trespassing signs posted around the boundary of the property, including every tree facing the river,” Grant said. There is also a sign warning of the dam ahead, no public access and turn around, he said.
On questioning by city attorney Will Carver, he said he has never seen any motorized craft on Little River.
Grant said when notified at River Rage of the problem, he and his brother, Jeremiah, followed the tubers at a safe distance after calling police.
Rayburn, who has been a Townsend officer 4½ years, testified that dispatch informed him of a complaint and he responded to the campground and then located the offenders above the Wear’s Valley bridge over Little River.
After making sure he had the correct suspects, Rayburn issued them a citation for trespassing.
Upon cross-examination by Nicholson, Rayburn said Danico was cooperative. “He told me he had been told by the company he rented his tube from (River Rat) that they could tube the whole river.”
Danico testified that he and friends were on summer break and decided to got to Townsend to River Rat and rent tubes.
He said he was told of two routes they could take on the upper or lower parts of the river in Townsend. “I was not aware of a dam,” he said.
The group realized the other tubers on the river were no longer in the river when they noticed the water velocity slowing down about 50 yards from the dam.
“I didn‘t know how tall it was. I certainly didn’t plan to crawl over the dam,” he said. He denied cursing Williams and said that he did not know he was a worker at the campground.
When told he would have to pay $2 to get out at the campground, Danico said, “I told him we were floating down the river and didn’t have any ID or money. All we had was what were wearing.”
He said he did not know the man and did not want to leave the tubes or sunglasses with someone “who might not be there when we returned.”
“I saw the sidewalk across from the campground and myself and my party went on the land and accessed the sidewalk beside the street. I did not know I would be charged with trespassing” until I encountered Rayborn, he said.
Shannon Skidmore, owner of River Rat, said Danico was a client on June 23.
He said he has more than 10,000 tubers using Little River each year.
He testified he has never seen anyone in a tube go across Wears Dam.
Ralls, who has been city judge in Townsend since 1980, said the property was posted, there were warnings upriver of the impending dam and it was private property.
Nicholson said the ruling will be appealed in Blount County Circuit Court.