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No Recreational Immunity Means Trails May Close

The local insurance agency for the majority of Oregon cities, CIS Oregon has made the recommendation for cities to close recreational trails based on the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling in a case against the city of Newport, which changed liability protections for cities and other trail owners. In January 2019, Nicole Fields, a friend and their dogs followed the Ocean to Bay Trail in Newport to reach Agate Beach. After spending a couple of hours on the beach, they walked back on the same trail and came to a wooden bridge. Fields slipped on the bridge and fell. She sued the city for neglecting to warn the bridge may be slippery, claiming it was unreasonably hazardous and for not maintaining the bridge with anti-slip material.

Lincoln County circuit court favored the city citing the recreational immunity. Fields appealed saying she was using the trail to get to and from the beach, not necissarly for hiking or recreational use, and the court of appeals agreed. The case is now going to be heard by a jury. This ruling led CIS to conclude that courts were “effectively ending recreational immunity” and cities should close trails that had been legally protected by it.

The city of Waldport is the only city so far in Lincoln County to close trails to the public. Waldport city manager Dann Cutter said the city has closed two of their trails including the Waziata beach trail and the woodland trail that runs from the city up Crestline Dr. State Representative David Gomberg reported while local cities weigh their options, the League of Oregon Cities says they are reaching out to legislators to propose a fix to the law during the February 2024 “short” session.

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