Colorado may bolster liability protections for private landowners who let the public recreate on their lands |

Colorado may bolster liability protections for private landowners who let the public recreate on their lands

A state lawmaker is working with trail groups and property owners on legislation that would reform Colorado’s recreational use statute.

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
Colorado Mountain Club conservation coordinator Kendall Chastain packs her bag after installing a "No Trespassing" sign along the DeCaliBron loop trail on July 12, 2022, near Alma. In partnerships with landowners, municipalities and trail groups, the signs help protect hiker access on 14ers without crossing closed private properties.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Ever since a federal appeals court in 2019 sided with a mountain biker who sued the federal government after crashing on an Air Force Academy trail, recreational access on private property in Colorado has been under threat.

Landowners have closed trails, and even entire mountains, fearing an injured hiker could sue them for millions. The appeals court decision left landowners unsure that protections in the venerable Colorado Recreational Use Statute are enough to allow people to recreate on their land. 

There’s an exception in that decades-old statute that didn’t mean a lot before the Air Force Academy decision: Landowners could be liable if an injured recreational user can prove a landowner’s “willful or malicious failure to guard or warn against a known dangerous condition.” 

Can a trail be a dangerous condition? How about an old mine? Or a bunch of wet rocks next to rapids? How many signs are needed to warn visitors? How often do landowners need to check those signs? 

A Colorado lawmaker is stepping up with a plan to amend the Colorado Recreational Use Statute with added protections for landowners whose attorneys are telling them to lock the gates or get ready to be sued.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.