recreational immunity

Portland Parks says immunity ruling won’t impact volunteers at Gateway Green, other sites

Avatar by on February 9th, 2017 at 4:52 pm

Turns out the forthcoming bike park at Gateway Green won’t be “crippled” by a court decision after all.

After the Willamette Week published a scary story yesterday about a legal loophole in Oregon law that allows people to sue city employees and volunteers for injuries sustained on City-owned properties, we’ve been trying to learn more about potential impacts to not just Gateway Green but the over 200 other Parks-owned properties around Portland.

If other cities have closed recreational facilities due to this loophole, what would happen in Portland? Volunteers are the backbone of many parks and public lands where we ride bikes, and losing them — or losing access completely because of liability concerns — would be a major setback.

Our initial inquiries with the City of Portland and other sources to clarify these impacts didn’t get very far. The Parks Bureau seemed to be caught off-guard by the Willamette Week story and no one else would comment due to it being a sensitive legal issue (if only I had a nickel for every time I heard “Sorry, I can’t discuss legal matters”). The City’s Office of Government Relations would only refer us to the pending legislation that will close the loophole and that we outlined in our story yesterday.

But what if those bills don’t pass? How will Parks’ and other public lands in Portland and throughout the state be impacted by the 2016 Oregon Supreme Court Ruling that found the legal concept of “recreational immunity” does not extend to city employees?
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Willamette Week: Legal concerns cloud Gateway Green bike park and other city properties

Avatar 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.
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