© 2024 KLCC

136 W 8th Ave
Eugene OR 97401

Contact Us

FCC Applications
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Oregon governor signs 'recreational immunity' bill protecting public landowners from lawsuits

A view of the Pacific Ocean and rocky coastline framed by trees on the Oregon coast.
Rachael McDonald
The view of the coast from a section of the Oregon Coast Trail south of Yachats.

Oregon’s governor has signed a temporary stopgap to shield landowners–including local governments–from lawsuits when people are injured while using public trails.

Landowners that allow the public to recreate on their property have long been shielded from lawsuits for injuries on public land.

Last year, however, a court found the city of Newport could be held liable after a woman broke her leg, causing some local governments to close recreation areas.

On Wednesday, Governor Tina Kotek signed a bill that grants “recreational immunity” to landowners who allow free access for biking, running and walking.

League of Oregon Cities lobbyist Scott Winkels said his organization, as well as the insurer for most cities and counties, have urged local governments to re-open recreation areas.

“It’s got an emergency clause, it goes into effect right away,” he said. “The goal was to have the trails open before the ink was dry.”

The Oregon Coast Visitors Association estimates at least 22 trails were closed down out of fear of litigation. In a news release, the organization’s spokesperson Rick Osborn said he’s hopeful lawmakers will work with the tourism industry to ensure a permanent fix that encourages public access.

"This was the best solution we could have hoped for," said Osborn. "Finding a long-term answer requires a robust conversation between all parties involved.

The new law will sunset at the end of the next legislative session to allow lawmakers to write a long-term fix.

Rebecca Hansen-White joined the KLCC News Department in November, 2023. Her journalism career has included stops at Spokane Public Radio, The Spokesman-Review, and The Columbia Basin Herald.
Related Content