Vermont Recreational Use Statute

ACTS OF THE 1997-1998 VERMONT LEGISLATURE

TITLE 12: COURT PROCEDURE
PART IX: PARTICULAR PROCEEDINGS
CHAPTER 203: LIMITATIONS ON LANDOWNER LIABILITY
SECTION: 5791

5794. Landowner protection

(a) The fact that an owner has made land available without consideration for recreational uses shall not be construed to:

(1) limit the property rights of owners;

(2) limit the ability of an owner and a recreational user of the land to enter into agreements for the recreational use of the land to vary or supplement the duties and limitations created in this chapter;

(3) support or create any claim or right of eminent domain, adverse possession or other prescriptive right or easement or any other land use restriction;

(4) alter, modify or supersede the rights and responsibilities under chapters 191, animal control, and 193, domestic pet or wolf-hybrid control, of Title 20; under chapters 29, snowmobiles, and 31, all-terrain vehicles, of Title 23; under chapter 23, bicycle routes, of Title 19; and under chapter 20, Vermont trail system, of Title 10;

(5) extend any assurance that the land is safe for recreational uses or create any duty on an owner to inspect the land to discover dangerous conditions;

(6) relieve a person making recreational use of land from the obligation the person may have in the absence of this chapter to exercise due care for the person's own safety in the recreational use of the land.

(b) Nothing in this chapter shall create any presumption or inference of permission or consent to enter upon an owner's land for any purpose.

(c) For the purposes of protecting landowners who make land available for recreational use to members of the public for no consideration pursuant to this chapter, the presence of one or more of the following on land does not by itself preclude the land from being "open and undeveloped": posting of the land, fences, or agricultural or forestry related structures. (Added 1997, No. 110 (Adj. Sess.), 1; No. 147 (Adj. Sess.), 190a.)


TITLE 10: Conservation and Development
CHAPTER 020: VERMONT TRAILS SYSTEM
SECTION 441

441. Statement of purpose

(a) In order to provide access to the use and enjoyment of the outdoor areas of Vermont, to conserve and use the natural resources of this state for healthful and recreational purposes, and to provide transportation from one place to another, it is declared to be the policy of this state to provide the means for maintaining and improving a network of trails to be known as the "Vermont trails system."

(b) It is the intent of the legislature that trails be established within and without boundaries of state parks and forests and, when feasible, to interconnect units of the state park and forest system, as well as such federal and municipal lands as may be appropriate.

(c) The development, operation, and maintenance of the Vermont trails system is declared to be a public purpose and in this context, the agency of natural resources together with other governmental agencies is authorized to spend public funds for such purposes and to accept gifts and grants of funds, property, or property rights from public or private sources to be used for such purposes where permission is granted.

(d) It is the intent of the legislature to maintain Vermont's eligibility for receiving and spending federal funds for trails.

(e) It is the intent of the legislature that whenever a railroad line not already owned by the state of Vermont is proposed for abandonment, and continuation of railroad service is not economically feasible under present conditions, the right-of-way may be acquired by the state of Vermont for railbanking and interim trail use under chapter 58 of TITLE 5: (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

442. Definitions

As used in this chapter:

(1) "Agency" means the agency of natural resources.

(2) "Nonhighway recreational fuel taxes" means state taxes on fuel used in vehicles on recreational trails or back country terrain.

(3) "Trails" means land used for hiking, walking, bicycling, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, all-terrain vehicle riding, horseback riding and other similar activities. Trails may be used for recreation, transportation and other compatible purposes.

(4) "Trails and Greenways Council" means the Vermont Trails and Greenways Council, Inc. as incorporated with the secretary of state's office. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

443. Vermont trails system

The Vermont trails system shall consist of those individual trails recognized by the agency of natural resources with the advice of the greenways council. The agency, with the advice of the council, shall establish criteria for recognition of single use and shared use trails. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

444. Responsibilities of the agency of natural resources

The agency of natural resources may:

(1) Acquire by permission, the use of any section of land for the purpose of developing and maintaining the Vermont trails system. Permission shall be acquired from a willing land owner and shall be in writing and signed by both parties. The agency or a person authorized by the agency shall obtain landowner permission before establishing or allowing a trails group to establish a trail across private land. The written permission shall contain a clearly written statement expressing both parties' rights and obligations, including the obligation to maintain the trail, and the liability for property damage or personal injury, or both, to persons using trails created pursuant to this chapter. A dedication or any adverse right shall not arise from the granting of permission, under any circumstances.

(2) Acquire by gift, or purchase, the fee simple absolute title or any lesser interest in land, including easements, for the purposes of developing and maintaining the Vermont trails system. The agency shall hold harmless from any liability for personal injury or property damage sustained on a trail, subject to the provisions of section 448 of this chapter, any private landowner from whom an interest has been granted or conveyed under this subdivision.

(3) Assign responsibilities for any trail, path, easement or right-of-way to another governmental entity or not-for-profit agency upon agreement by such entity or agency to maintain and manage it for purposes consistent with this chapter.

(4) Coordinate the activities of all governmental units and bodies that desire to participate in the development of the Vermont trails system.

(5) Publish, sell, and distribute information and maps related to the development and maintenance of recreational trails.

(6) Develop and oversee the implementation of a Vermont trails plan. The plan may include guidance on expenditure of funds, standards, provision for uniform signing, user and landowner educational programs.

(7) Provide for public involvement in the development and management of the Vermont trails system. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

445. Advisory council designated

(a) The Vermont Trails and Greenways Council, Inc., an organization of trail using and trail providing groups, is designated as an advisory council to the agency of natural resources and shall advise on all matters related to this chapter including the allocation of state and federal funds appropriated for the purposes of this chapter.

(b) The agency of natural resources shall submit by September 1 of each year to the house and senate committees on transportation, appropriations, and natural resources and energy, a complete accounting of expenditures and income, relating to this chapter, for the prior year and an estimated budget for the next year. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

446. Vermont recreational trails fund

A recreational trails fund is established which shall be subject to the provisions of subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of TITLE 32: There shall be an annual transfer from the transportation fund to the recreational trails fund of an amount equivalent to a reasonable estimation of the revenues from taxes on nonhighway recreational fuel. This amount shall be three-fourths of one percent of the total state gas tax, not to exceed $370,000.00. In each fiscal year this amount shall be included in the budget estimates and statements submitted under 32 V.S.A. 301 for purposes of determining appropriations by the general assembly. Appropriations may be made from the fund to design, construct, and maintain recreational trails, to conduct studies and prepare plans, publish maps and information, make grants to state and municipal agencies and nonprofit organizations. The agency of natural resources shall administer the fund and adopt rules for its use and all monies appropriated shall be used on state, federal and municipal lands and on maintenance of trails on public as well as private lands where permission is granted, as follows:

(1) forty percent to the department of forests, parks and recreation;

(2) twenty percent for providing grants to municipalities and not-for-profit agencies;

(3) forty percent to the Vermont association of snow travelers. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28; amended 1995, No. 63, 212a, eff. May 4, 1995.)

447. Coordination with the agency of transportation

(a) The agency of natural resources shall coordinate the development of trails and the agency of transportation shall coordinate the development of bicycle and pedestrian paths.

(b) The agency of transportation shall endeavor to purchase railroads over which rail service has been discontinued which then may be retained for transportation use or leased to the agency of natural resources for management as trails. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

448. Landowner liability

No public or private owner of land which is a part of the Vermont trails system shall be liable for any property damage or personal injury sustained by any person using these trails unless the public or private owner intentionally inflicts the damage or injury. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)

449. Relation to other laws

The provisions of this chapter shall not be construed to limit the powers of any governmental body under any other law or municipal charter. (Added 1993, No. 211 (Adj. Sess.), 28.)



SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Text of Code also available at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/title10/CHAP020.HTM#00441 and http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/title12/05794.htm as of 11/19/00.

(1998))NO. 110. AN ACT RELATING TO LANDOWNER LIABILITY.
(S.29)

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1. 12 V.S.A. chapter 203 is added to read:

CHAPTER 203. LIMITATIONS ON LANDOWNER LIABILITY

5791. PURPOSE

The purpose of this chapter is to encourage owners to make their land and water available to the public for no consideration for recreational uses by clearly establishing a rule that an owner shall have no greater duty of care to a person who, without consideration, enters or goes upon the owner's land for a recreational use than the owner would have to a trespasser.

5792. DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter:

(1) "Consideration" means a price, fee or other charge paid to or received by the owner in return for the permission to enter upon or to travel across the owner's land for recreational use. Consideration shall not include:

(A) compensation paid to or a tax benefit received by the owner for granting a permanent recreational use easement;

(B) payment or provision for compensation to be paid to the owner for damage caused by recreational use; or

(C) contributions in services or other consideration paid to the owner to offset or insure against damages sustained by an owner from the recreational use or to compensate the owner for damages from recreational use.

(2)(A) "Land" means:

(i) open and undeveloped land, including paths and trails;

(ii) water, including springs, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes and other water courses;

(iii) fences; or

(iv) structures and fixtures used to enter or go upon land, including bridges and walkways.

(B) "Land" does not include:

(i) areas developed for commercial recreational uses,

(ii) equipment, machinery or personal property, and

(iii) structures and fixtures not described in subdivision (2)(A)(iii) or (iv) of this section.

(3) "Owner" means a person who owns, leases, licenses or otherwise controls ownership or use of land, and any employee or agent of that person.

(4) "Recreational use" means an activity undertaken for recreational, educational or conservation purposes, and includes hunting, fishing, trapping, guiding, camping, biking, in-line skating, jogging, skiing, swimming, diving, water sports, rock climbing, hang gliding, caving, boating, hiking, riding an animal or a vehicle, picking wild or cultivated plants, picnicking, gleaning, rock collecting, nature study, outdoor sports, visiting or enjoying archeological, scenic, natural, or scientific sites, or other similar activities. "Recreational use" also means any noncommercial activity undertaken without consideration to create, protect, preserve, rehabilitate or maintain the land for recreational uses.

5793. LIABILITY LIMITED

(a) Land. An owner shall not be liable for property damage or personal injury sustained by a person who, without consideration, enters or goes upon the owner's land for a recreational use unless the damage or injury is the result of the willful or wanton misconduct of the owner.

(b) Equipment, fixtures, machinery or personal property.

(1) Unless the damage or injury is the result of the willful or wanton misconduct of the owner, an owner shall not be liable for property damage or personal injury sustained by a person who, without consideration and without actual permission of the owner, enters or goes upon the owner's land for a recreational use and proceeds to enter upon or use:

(A) equipment, machinery or personal property; or

(B) structures or fixtures not described in subdivision 5792(2)(A)(iii) or (iv) ofthis title.

(2) Permission to enter or go upon an owner's land shall not, by itself, include permission to enter or go upon structures or to go upon or use equipment, fixtures, machinery or personal property.

5794. LANDOWNER PROTECTION

(a) The fact that an owner has made land available without consideration for recreational uses shall not be construed to:

(1) limit the property rights of owners;

(2) limit the ability of an owner and a recreational user of the land to enter into agreements for the recreational use of the land to vary or supplement the duties and limitations created in this chapter;

(3) support or create any claim or right of eminent domain, adverse possession or other prescriptive right or easement or any other land use restriction;

(4) alter, modify or supersede the rights and responsibilities under chapters 191, animal control, and 193, domestic pet or wolf-hybrid control, of Title 20; under chapters 29, snowmobiles, and 31, all-terrain vehicles, of Title 23; under chapter 23, bicycle routes, of Title 19; and under chapter 20, Vermont trail system, of Title 10;

(5) extend any assurance that the land is safe for recreational uses or create any duty on an owner to inspect the land to discover dangerous conditions;

(6) relieve a person making recreational use of land from the obligation the person may have in the absence of this chapter to exercise due care for the person's own safety in the recreational use of the land.

(b) Nothing in this chapter shall create any presumption or inference of permission or consent to enter upon an owner's land for any purpose.

5795. EXCEPTIONS

This chapter shall not apply to lands owned by a municipality or the state.

Sec. 2. CONSTRUCTION

This act shall be liberally construed to accomplish the purpose set forth in Sec. 1 (12 V.S.A. 5791) to limit an owner's liability and shall not be construed to extend anowner's liability beyond that which would exist if this act had not been adopted.

Sec. 3. REPEAL

10 V.S.A. 5212 (landowner's liability) is repealed.

HISTORY: Approved: April 23, 1998