No. 1309 April Term 1978, Appeal from the Order of the Court of common Please of Armstrong County, Civil Action at No. 1976 - 0227.
James D. McClister, Kittanning, for appellants.
Kenneth G. Valasek, Kittanning, for appellees.
Van der Voort, Spaeth and Watkins, JJ.
[ 278 Pa. Super. Page 129]
This case involves a dispute between certain inhabitants of the Village of Wattersonville over the proper use of an easement in a street that now borders the Allegheny River.
In order to understand this case it is necessary to present a brief history of the Village of Wattersonville. Benjamin Watterson owned some land in Washington Township, Armstrong County. He had a plan surveyed and on June 11, 1850, he recorded this plan. The plan was laid out and became known as the Village of Wattersonville. It contained 44 lots. The eastern border was the Allegheny River. Three streets ran in a north and south direction: Water Street, nearest to but not bordering the river; McConnell Street, down the middle of the village; and Fish Street, on the west. Another three streets ran in an east and west direction: Apple Street, to the north; Market Street across the middle of the village; and Mulberry Street, to the south. Between Water Street and the river was an open field. The following diagram is not drawn to scale but roughly depicts the village as it was laid out in 1850:
[ 278 Pa. Super. Page 130]
Some time after 1932, the Federal Government erected a dam south of the village. The river was raised to the extent that it now covers not only the field that used to be between Water Street and the river but also part of the street itself. Also, ice floes and soil erosion have worn away much of the street. As a result, only about half of the street remains. It is not paved and can only support pedestrian use.
The dispute in this case concerns Water Street where it intersects Market Street. Appellees, the Klamuts and Hetricks, own lots on Water Street and on both sides of Market Street. The Klamuts own lots 17 and 21; the Hetricks own lots 25, 26 and 27. Appellants, the Holts, Dillons, and Oskins, own lots 18 and 22 on Market Street, directly behind the lots owned by the Klamuts. The following diagram depicts the location of the different lots:
After they moved into their lots in 1975, appellants began to use the remains of Water Street where it intersects Market Street as a beach for picnics and sunbathing. They also filed a petition with the United States Army Corps of Engineers for permission to build a boat dock on the river. When appellees objected to appellants' use of the street as a beach and to construction of the dock, appellants brought an
[ 278 Pa. Super. Page 131]
action in the Court of Common Pleas of Armstrong County for a declaratory judgment. Appellees responded that the street could not be used as a beach and claimed that they had acquired ownership of part of Market Street and the remains of Water Street by adverse possession. After ...