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Willamette Week: Legal concerns cloud Gateway Green bike park and other city properties

Posted by on February 8th, 2017 at 1:33 pm

Community Cross at Gateway Green-1

Should volunteers or city employees who work on parks facilities — like the upcoming Gateway Green — be open to liability lawsuits?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

NOTE: Please read our important update to this story posted on Thursday 2/9 at 5:00 pm.

I didn’t know much about Oregon’s “recreational immunity” law when I woke up this morning. But since reading, “Portland’s First Mountain-Bike Park Could Be Crippled by a Court Decision” in the Willamette Week I’ve given myself a crash-course. And so should you.

That article lays out the case that a 2016 Oregon Supreme Court decision throws access to public parks (and all public lands more broadly) into question due to potential legal liability for landowners.

In a nutshell, that decision found that employees and volunteers of landowners are not covered by the same legal immunity as the owners of the land (as laid out in Oregon’s 1971 Public Use of Lands Act). For more on the ruling and the existing law, check out this article.

And here’s more from the Willamette Week:

The law, passed in 1971, said that if someone got hurt while engaging in recreational activities—say hunting, fishing, hiking or running—the landowners couldn’t be held legally responsible. The idea was to make more of Oregon’s natural beauty open to everyone and grant landowners, public and private, so-called “recreational immunity.”

In 2009, a city parks worker dug a hole in Portland’s Tom McCall Waterfront to fix a sprinkler. He was called away and left the hole uncovered. A blind woman named Emily Johnson was jogging in the park and stepped in the hole, resulting in serious injuries.

In its ruling on Johnson’s case last year, the state Supreme Court departed from the historical interpretation of “recreational immunity” instead, and found the city parks worker and his supervisor could be held personally liable because landowners’ employees and agents were not explicitly granted immunity by law. (On Jan. 30, the city of Portland agreed to pay Johnson $250,000 on behalf of its parks workers.)

In other words, while landowners remained safe from lawsuits, employees and volunteers who worked on that land were not. The ruling opened what the League of Oregon Cities and private landowners say is a major legal risk because while landowners are still legally immune, they are likely to have to cover the legal liabilities of employees and volunteers.


The story goes on to say that some park facilities around Oregon have already shut down when officials learned of the liability and were unable to afford a proper insurance policy.

Gateway Green was singled out by the Willamette Week because it’s owned by Portland Parks & Recreation bureau and it’s slated to open this summer with several new bike trails. Maintenance and upkeep of the park will be done by a mix of volunteers and city staff.

But what about other Parks properties throughout Portland? There are dozens, if not hundreds, of places in the region where the public has free access to recreational facilities thanks to a willing landowner. If landowners begin to realize their legal liability, will they shut these places down? Are the insurance policies held by advocacy and “Friends of…” groups robust enough to stave off potential tort claims?

We’re in the process of hearing from the City of Portland and other sources to get clarity. I’m quite surprised that given the magnitude of this issue that the City of Portland doesn’t already have a statement to make.

While we wait to get updates, we can confirm that there is legislation in Salem to remedy the situation.

Senate Bill 327 and its companion House Bill 2483 both seek to extend the “recreational immunity” currently given to landowners to employees, volunteers and other “agents” when those people are “acting within the cope of duties” of the landowner. If either of those bills pass it would end a lot of concern and confusion we’re hearing now from advocates and volunteers about the future of their parks. The laws have been deemed emergencies and would be effective immediately upon passage. The Senate Bill has been referred to the Judciary Committee (whose Chair, Senator Floyd Prozanski from Eugene and one of its members, Michael Dembrow of Northeast Portland are both bicycle riders) but no hearing is currently scheduled.

As the Willamette Week story points out, there is opposition to the bills coming from the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association (who wants to make sure people still have the ability to file lawsuits); but there’s also significant lobbying support to fix the liability gap and extend the immunity to volunteers and employees.

The issue is one of the City of Portland’s 2017 legislative priorites. And the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts — a group whose support includes Metro, the Association of Oregon Counties, the League of Oregon Cities, the cities of Salem and Medford, and many others — also supports extending the immunity. “Recreational immunity is the cornerstone principle that secures the public policy goals of the Oregon Public Use of Lands Act,” the group wrote in a one-pager about the current legislation.

Stay tuned as this is a developing issue.

In the mean time, the Big Dig out at Gateway Green on Saturday is going full steam ahead.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • rick February 8, 2017 at 1:45 pm

    Maybe I should sue the rain for getting things wet today. wow.

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    • abomb February 9, 2017 at 6:51 am

      “A blind woman jogging”. Really and she got hurt? No crap. Where is the common sense.
      I feel bad for anyone that gets hurt but when you do dangerous things you will probably get hurt at some point. How can this city be so liberal and at the same time be such a nanny state.

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      • Adam
        Adam February 9, 2017 at 8:36 am

        Ugh, this is so ableist. So people with disabilities aren’t allowed to enjoy things that able-bodied people do?

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        • abomb February 9, 2017 at 8:55 am

          They can enjoy the same things but you have to take some personal responsibility for your own actions and don’t always look to blame someone else.

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          • Adam
            Adam February 9, 2017 at 9:02 am

            And how exactly do you expect a legally-blind person to see a hole in the ground dug by a parks employee? IMO, this was an open and shut case of simple negligence on the employee’s part – a fence would have prevented her fall. Blaming the victim who has a disability is frankly quite disgusting.

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            • abomb February 9, 2017 at 10:15 am

              I’m not victim blaming but there is a reality that you can not make every inch of this world safe especially for someone without sight. The problem is that lawsuits like this are going to close our recreation spaces and not make it easy to open new ones up.

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              • q February 9, 2017 at 10:53 am

                You’re right, “you can not make every inch of this world safe especially for someone without sight”. The victim didn’t ask for that. Of all the places she could have chosen to run, she chose a flat, open lawn in a public park. I understand she was legally blind, which doesn’t mean she couldn’t see at all. She may have scouted this location out with a sighted friend, and run it dozens of times. She may even have been hurt running dozens of other times, and chalked up tripping on roots or sidewalk cracks as a hazard that isn’t society’s responsibility to fix.

                Then someone digs a hole in the middle of the lawn that she may have just run on with no problem 20 times before, and then they just walked off. That’s something she could reasonably think she shouldn’t have to put up with.

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              • February 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm

                “I’m not victim blaming.”

                I think that that phrase might mean something different than you think it means.

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              • abomb February 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm

                Maybe I am, a little bit.

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        • Thomito February 10, 2017 at 10:04 am

          I think you got it – it is not that they are not allowed they just simply are not “able” to.
          Specially made trails would be required.

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          • q February 10, 2017 at 1:16 pm

            “Specially made trails would be required”? No, all that was required was a nice, big, open, flat lawn, which is where she chose to run. She wasn’t trying to run on the Wildwood Trail.

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  • X February 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    If I crash on a road ride can I sue Matt Garrett?

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  • Glenn February 8, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Sounds to me that 2009 case is pretty justified for a lawsuit/negligence. It was not a rain storm or some other reason the hole was was dug by a park employee that was to lazy to put up the proper safety equipment.

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    • Allan Rudwick February 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I was wondering about this as well. How hard is it to convince an insurance provider that you have processes in place to prevent mistakes like this from happening

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      • Oliver, the other one. February 8, 2017 at 3:02 pm

        The biggest insurance executives have 8 figure salaries. Convincing them only requires that you have enough money to support that kind of weight at the top.

        Which is pretty much the problem at hand.

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    • Pete February 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Agreed, but maybe not lazy, just untrained. There should be EHS policies and training in place, and the lawsuit would rightfully show negligence if documented procedures to prevent joggers from falling into holes wasn’t followed. Personal safety is a huge risk for any organization, and unfortunately many of them learn to protect themselves through unfortunate experience like this. Blanket liability statements on public parks from supreme courts, on the other hand, still don’t result in parks workers properly protecting people from the holes they dig.

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      • Gary B February 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm

        Neither does personal liability. There’s legitimate reason for the city to be liable, arguably, but little for the employee to be financially ruined for doing their job, even if imperfectly.

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    • Jon February 8, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      So the new standard is that any park should be safe for blind runners 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That is a pretty high bar. I could imagine someone working on fixing a sink hole in a park and not finishing the work during the work day. They could not just put up some cones or warning tape because a blind person might not see those items any better than a hole. Also some random teenager could move the cones or tape after the repair crew left. Maybe any hazard would need to have cyclone fencing around it and some pillows surrounding the cyclone fence. Of course all repairs would then take twice as long with twice as many people all because a blind runner fell into a hole. How does anyone one determine what safety measures are adequate when there is no common sense in our legal system? At some point any land that cannot be perfectly maintained is simply made off limits to everyone.

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      • SE Rider February 8, 2017 at 5:08 pm

        Waterfront park is basically a large sidewalk and a lawn that is heavily trafficked with both commuters and recreators. We’re not talking about an obscure corner of Forest Park.
        I agree this law can definitely be used inappropriately, but that stated case seems pretty fair to me. The city seriously altered the ground in a heavily used urban area and didn’t mark it in anyway. They wouldn’t get away with doing that on a sidewalk in downtown.

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        • q February 8, 2017 at 6:00 pm

          Yes, and it seems like a hole there could be a hazard for anyone. Plus, for all we know, the injured woman may have carefully scouted out that route ahead of time with a non-visually-impaired fellow runner, and run it dozens of times before.

          And if you’re someone who’s visually impaired who wants to walk or run, and want to be safe so you’re not creating a liability issue for anyone, you really couldn’t do much better than to choose a grass area in an open, flat, public park.

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      • q February 8, 2017 at 5:35 pm

        “So the new standard is that any park should be safe for blind runners 24 hours a day 7 days a week. That is a pretty high bar.”?

        Nobody is saying anything remotely like that.

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        • Jon February 8, 2017 at 6:39 pm

          I work with a group that puts on bicycle events. It is things like this that makes our jobs a million times harder. Say you try to put on a charity ride that starts at a school or other property and the land manager has just read about a court decision like this. The easiest thing for the land manager to do is say no to your event. Due to other court decisions liability waivers signed by participants pretty much mean nothing. Every year crazy rulings like this limit everyone else’s chance to participate in activities that have even the smallest risk.

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          • q February 8, 2017 at 9:09 pm

            It didn’t seem crazy to me. The court ruled that the law as it was written didn’t exempt the park employees. It didn’t rule that it was good that they weren’t exempt. So now people are revising the law so it works the way they intended it to work.

            As I understand, the court didn’t make any ruling on the park employees’ leaving an open hole. But if they had, ruling for the woman who stepped into a hole that was carelessly left open doesn’t sound unreasonable to me.

            Certainly the ruling will make it harder and more expensive to hold events, until the law is corrected. And after that, rulings in favor of people who’ve been injured will continue to make it harder and more expensive to hold events. But victims of negligence shouldn’t be expected to forego compensation in order to make it easier for others to hold events. The blame lies with people who behave negligently, not their victims or the courts that reasonably side with them.

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          • Kyle Banerjee February 9, 2017 at 6:02 am

            There are groups I really like, but do not do organized events in any official capacity for this reason.

            Multiple groups I’ve been with for different activities have paid out claims for injuries that I strongly feel fall within the area of inherent risk despite signed waivers. I have talked to a number of people about this, and it is clear to me that many feel that when they do these organized activities, someone else is responsible for their safety. This mentality encourages dangerous behavior.

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      • Adam
        Adam February 8, 2017 at 6:24 pm

        February 8, 2017 at 3:33 pm
        So the new standard is that any park should be safe for blind runners 24 hours a day 7 days a week

        Yes, it’s called the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy February 9, 2017 at 7:54 am

          I believe that addresses “reasonable” issues, and not every isolated outlier.

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          • Adam
            Adam February 9, 2017 at 8:35 am

            It’s not reasonable to expect parks employees to put a safety fence around a hole in the ground?

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            • Middle of the Road Guy February 9, 2017 at 12:40 pm

              That’s completely different and obviously valid. But it is unreasonable to try and make every inch of something perfectly safe for someone with different abilities…like a cycling part that has to cater to the legally blind.

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              • q February 9, 2017 at 1:21 pm

                But “that” (not putting a barrier around a hole) is what this case is about. Yes, it’s “unreasonable to try and make every inch of something perfectly safe for someone with different abilities” but nobody’s saying that.

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    • wsbob February 9, 2017 at 2:00 am

      OHSA: Occupational Health and Safety Administration

      To the extent, land, the landowner allows public access to, is a workplace, it seems to me the landowner should be subject to the rules and regulations of OHSA.

      The city having maintenance work done, that involved the digging of a big hole at Waterfront Park, made the area where the hole was being dug, a workplace. The city shouldn’t be allowed immunity from lawsuits that come about because the city and its employees have allowed an unsafe workplace to exist on its recreational land. A big hole in the ground, left unguarded, uncovered, without barricades, etc, in the park, near where recreational visitors may come by, is an unsafe workplace.

      Once the work is done, and the workplace goes back to being entirely recreational land, the landowner, which happens to be the city, Portland, restores its immunity from suit status. So after the area where the hole was, is all covered up and the workers are gone…a branch falls on the ground and someone running or walking along, stumbles into it and falls, it seems to me the city would reasonably be immune from suit arising from consequences of such a fall.

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    • wsbob February 9, 2017 at 10:01 am

      “…it was dug by a park employee that was to lazy to put up the proper safety equipment.” glenn

      Unless it’s known for certain that it was out of simple laziness, that the park employee didn’t somehow safeguard the hole he was digging to prevent someone falling into the hole, it’s not fair to say that about the employee.

      As some others commenting here have alluded to, there are government rules and regulations for the management of workplaces, to help prevent them from posing a hazard…not just to the employees working at a work site, but to anyone else that may happen by, whether they’re able bodied or disabled.

      I’m thinking that beyond workplace liability the city as landowner should have associated with maintenance of its parks, in terms of the pure recreational function of its parks as used by the public, it’s right for the city and its employees to have immunity from likely most lawsuits someone might want to file to get compensated for injuries they sustained in using the parks recreationally.

      Because of the nature of what parks can be, varying some in type and character from park to park, it’s right for members of the public to assume some personal risk. So for example, if someone is out for a walk with their little dog on a long leash, or no leash at all, in Forest Park, and a coyote sneaks out from behind a bush, grabs the dog and gives it the coup de gras…the city and its employees should have immunity from being sued for loss of the dog, trauma to the owner, etc

      Where it comes to parks such as skateparks and park facilities such as climbing walls, basketball courts, the deciding lines seem more complicated. The public has to assume some risk in using them. On the other hand, it seems to me that if for example, someone falls because of broken paving, playing a game of basketball on a park basketball court…or if someone falls from a climbing wall because a park employee handling the rope tethered to the climber, lets it slip…city and employee should be liable.

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  • Chris I February 8, 2017 at 2:14 pm

    Blind jogging? Amazing.

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    • Todd Hudson February 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      The person injured was legally blind, meaning they have eyesight but it’s very poor. The Oregonian had an extensive article about her a while back – she had to give up her career and wound up with a permanently disabled knee. The city fought that lawsuit tooth and nail, all the way to the state Supreme Court….because it’s Parks worker negligently left an open hole in a heavily used park.

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      • Todd Hudson February 8, 2017 at 2:21 pm

        “its” not “it’s” stupid autocorrect

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  • Spiffy February 8, 2017 at 2:51 pm

    I agree with the lawyers on this one… you need to be able to sue when there are unsafe conditions… a maintenance hole left uncovered without a barrier is one such unsafe condition that you should be allowed to sue for… falling off a well-maintained rock-climbing wall? lawsuit should not proceed…

    much like those liability waivers you sign before a bike race stating you won’t sue the promoter… you can still sue the promoter if their negligence creates a hazard…

    we shouldn’t have blanket policies prohibiting lawsuits… each one can be considered on its own merit…

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    • Kyle Banerjee February 9, 2017 at 6:19 am

      Right now, there are massive potholes and cracks in roads all over the city including directly in bike lanes. Gravel spread by the city deep enough to hide the road surface is still in many places. Especially on the hills where cyclists could be carrying some speed, these represent a real threat — particularly at night.

      Are you saying you think a bunch of lawsuits would improve the overall situation?

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      • Spiffy February 9, 2017 at 7:57 am

        I’m saying each pothole deserves its own merit… sharp cut-off edges over 2″ thick? that’s likely a hazard… it’s the same threshold we give to abrupt sidewalk edges…

        gravel I’m not seeing as a hazard any more than snow is… you slow down and proceed cautiously…

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        • Kyle Banerjee February 9, 2017 at 9:29 am

          I hear what you’re saying, but the problems are widespread. Along my commute there are more cracks and potholes that exceed that 2″ threshold than I could name. These are genuine hazards and a couple are unrideable — a term I don’t use lightly. One particularly long and deep cracks caught one of my friends, he broke his wrist, we reported it and it hasn’t been fixed a year later (which I find surprising).

          Agreed that precautions for gravel and snow are similar with gravel being the easier of the two. Having said that, I’ve been taking the lane since I see no reason to plod along with poor traction and handling while cutting up my tires. Curiously, I have yet to receive any grief from the motorists for doing this. I’m not sure if they understand why I’m not in the bike lane or if they’re actually that chill.

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          • Adam
            Adam February 9, 2017 at 9:39 am

            At this point, I have no faith that PBOT can fix anything in a timely manner. Many bikeways are still covered in gravel, streetlights on my street have been out for 3 months, potholes at the downtown landing of the Hawthorne Bridge have worsened, etc. The only options I foresee are to get wider tires, ride slower, etc. i.e. taking matters into our own hands. I’d also love to see a team of community members fixing our streets ourselves when our government services fail us.

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            • Brian February 9, 2017 at 9:55 am

              Funny you say that. I had the idea of starting a Facebook event to rally people to help clean up the city (pick up branches, gravel sweeping nearby your house/business, etc).

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              • MaxD February 9, 2017 at 10:20 am

                It may be more effective to enlarge the holes. Make them big enough to slow down or stop cars and PBOT will get into gear and fix it.

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              • Brian February 9, 2017 at 10:26 am

                Good call. I’ll bust out the pick axe instead!

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            • abomb February 9, 2017 at 12:03 pm

              Be careful about volunteering to do street work. You might get sued if someone gets hurt on a section you just worked on.

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  • Jon February 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Our legal system is welfare for lawyers. Lawyers become judges and judges then make sure that lawyers can sue as much as possible to line the pockets of their profession. I imagine that running while legally blind is probably a lot like running when it is dark outside. I could go running as fast as I could in an un-lit park but the odds are I would hurt myself. There are thousands of obstacles in a park or city that I could hurt myself on riding, walking or running. There are stairs in Waterfront park that a blind person could fall down. There are fences I could run into when riding my bike. Everyone assumes risk when they get out of bed in the morning. Are we just going to pave every public space flat or ban anyone from accessing any place where you could get injured? Better get rid of every dock on Willamette. Someone might die by drowning because they jumped into the water but could not swim. This is absolutely crazy

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    • q February 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm

      That’s a bit extreme, isn’t it? Certainly people need to understand that life has risks, but at the same time people need to take some responsibility for what risks they impose on others. When they don’t take proper responsibility, then suing them is reasonable.

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    • J_R February 8, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Lawyers are also over-represented in state legislatures and in Congress, too.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy February 9, 2017 at 12:41 pm

        Doctors are over-represented at hospitals.

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    • MaxD February 9, 2017 at 10:25 am

      The person running did not run into an existing obstacle like a lamp post or an unexpected one like a broken limb. She ran into a hole that left open an unmarked in an area where anyone would reasonably expect there not to be a hole. An equivalent might be if someone were to dig a hole in the street to fix a sewer, then just leave the hole completely open and unmarked. It would be very easy to crash into that on a bike regardless of your vision. It is clear negligence.

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  • Gary B February 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    Fortunately, this is the kind of a in a law, “discovered” by a creative lawyer, that even a dysfunctional legislature will almost certainly fix in a matter of days. It happens all the time.

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  • Champs February 8, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Many have a knee-jerk reaction to “nanny state regulation” and the “litigious society” but I say they have their place. The world is full of risk and injustice, and if we don’t spread it around, someone is going to step in a big pile of it.

    In this case, the small gains of the many outweigh the greater losses of the few. Here’s hoping that the Ds in Salem can overcome one of their more influential lobbies.

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  • Nick February 8, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    I appreciate the reporting and thanks for including the associated House/Senate bill numbers so we share our opinions with our representatives.

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  • shirtsoff February 8, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    So what the Oregon Supreme Court is saying is that Park Employees should be able to pass the state bar as an additional requirement for consideration in their employment. j/k

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    • q February 8, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      No, it said that employees aren’t exempt from liability. So if people want them to be exempt, they need to revise the law.

      Or are you saying that you think people need to become lawyers to understand you shouldn’t dig a hole on a lawn that thousands of people use daily, and then walk away without bothering to even put a couple cones around it?

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  • Alex February 8, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    How does this effect skateparks?

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  • Steve Scarich February 8, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    This was already a ‘real’ issue over here in Central Oregon. The City of Redmond had invested lots of money in a climbing wall. They closed it down last year because of this very lawsuit.

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    • Chris I February 8, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      “this is why we can’t have nice things.”

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  • Mark smith February 8, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    There is either immunity or there isn’t. Can’t have it both ways. Setup some sort of standardized inspection. Get the inspection and you have immunity. Known issues, if not fixed, will remove your immunity.

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  • lop February 9, 2017 at 12:49 am

    A parks employee’s negligence creates a dangerous situation for someone jogging and many bikeportland commenters find anyone being liable for debilitating injuries to be ridiculous. Do you feel the same about all the lawsuits filed by cyclists against people – the city, trimet, ODOT etc…in addition to individual drivers? If someone is out for a recreational bike ride, should they have to assume the risks involved and waive any right to sue?

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  • Chris I February 9, 2017 at 7:02 am

    I would feel the same way about a blind cyclist hitting a pothole. You realize that without these protections, many of our recreation spaces would be closed?

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  • Mike Sanders February 9, 2017 at 11:14 am

    So we might get the tunnel running underneath Gateway Green connecting the I-205 trail with 92 Av. and Rocky Butte, but no dirt bike paths. A lot of planning may end up in the refuse bin because of this. Maybe we get a rest area/viewpoint for I-205 trail users instead of the dirt bike paths as a result, with maybe a few picnic tables, and that’ll be it.

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  • Charley February 9, 2017 at 11:53 am

    Yikes! Okay, so lemme get this straight.
    EITHER. . .
    A. Public landowners’ employees need to be completely immune to any charge of negligence or they will shut their doors completely. (Thus allowing employees to be completely negligent without any repercussion; so, they could string up wires across the bike path, pull out planks in bridges, leave dynamite laying around, etc.).
    OR. . .
    B. We lose access to every publicly and privately recreation owned recreational facility in the state because insurance will become so onerously expensive that no landowner will pay for it.

    This is making me want to tear my hair out. I can’t figure out why, if someone is negligent, they can’t be held responsible, but at the same time, cities cannot be allowed to have open parks, and whatnot. Right? I mean, the worker shouldn’t have left that hole open, and thus it seems reasonable to me that he or the city should bear some of the costs of the victim’s treatment. But. . . the City of Redmond should also not have to close its newest park because of that hole in Portland!

    The real issue seems to me to be the costs associated with insurance and damages. And a lot of that would go back to the costs of medical care.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 9, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      I think I’m just as frustrated by this as you are Charley. I’m still working on a follow up story to try and get some clarity out there but so far most everyone is afraid to say anything worthwhile because “it’s a legal issue”… argh! I still expect to publish a follow up ASAP. stay tuned.

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    • Kyle Banerjee February 9, 2017 at 3:46 pm

      Part of what worries me is people just don’t want the legal entanglements.

      I can totally understand why owners who would otherwise be totally happy to have people on their property would cut off access if it meant they could be sued.

      I used to live in a condo along the Willamette greenway and learned our association could be held liable for anyone injured on the path. Maintaining the path is not as straightforward as it sounds. For example, if roots are breaking up the path and making them unsafe, you absolutely can’t cut them, nor can you do a repair that could modify drainage, etc. Getting things through the condo board and the city takes time, energy and money. I remember my attitude at the time is I’m happy for people to come through, but not if they’re going to sue us.

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  • not that Mark February 9, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    WW left out an important part of the case. The “lazy” employee marked the hole with a cone and someone removed the cone. Obviously their procedures can be improved, but the hazard was marked.

    The Oregonian looks like a bastion of journalistic integrity compared to WW.

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  • flightlessbird February 9, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    Having talked with many of the great trail builders and folks doing awesome things on both public and private land in Washington State, i have been told that one reason WA has been so successful in their MTB access and trail building compared OR is because of the differences in land owner liability laws.
    I feel very bad for the runner, and not knowing the particulars, I feel bad for the workers too. Knowing what it is like to do maintenance work, we often asked the impossible of folks. This is a fine line to walk, people need to have the ability to get adequately compensated when wrong has really occurred, but not at the expense of having more public outdoor rec. When need that more than anything.
    My general opinion: OTLA, keep your greedy mitts off my public land!

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