June 5, 2014
HB 544 would amend the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act (RULWA) to reaffirm the General Assembly’s support for landowners who, out of the goodness of their hearts, open their lands to public use for hunting, hiking, biking and other outdoor recreational purposes.
The Recreational Use of Land and Water Act isn’t delivering on its purpose. It doesn’t adequately limit the liability for personal injury or property damage of private landowners who wish to provide a public service. It doesn’t adequately protect charitable nonprofits. And through its inadequacies, it fails people of all walks of life, who are left with fewer opportunities to hike, bike, hunt, bird-watch and otherwise enjoy the outdoors.
HB 544 acknowledges the valuable public service provided by landowners – public and private – who choose to open their land to the public. It benefits not only these landowners but also the general public, who get to take advantage of the resulting recreational opportunities.
The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association’s member organizations work with landowners to conserve their land and to provide safe and responsible recreational opportunities to the public. Landowner fear of liability is often the central obstacle to efforts to establish trails and other recreational opportunities for people of all ages. The obstacle, to the detriment of the public, is frequently insurmountable.
HB 544, as presently drafted, will ensure public-minded decisions to provide access won’t be punished with undue liability. PALTA sent a letter to House Representatives to urge them to support HB 544 and oppose all amendments.