Denver, Colorado – In a significant development for Colorado’s outdoor community, the Fix CRUS Coalition, in collaboration with its diverse membership base, state legislators, and the legal community, has crafted a groundbreaking bill aimed at revising the Colorado Recreational Use Statute (CRUS). SB-58, introduced this week, seeks to address the escalating issue of closures, land sales, and waiver requirements for Colorado’s outdoor spaces, including the iconic 14ers.
“SB-58 is a balanced solution that provides clarity and protection for landowners without sacrificing safety and transparency for the public,” said Fix CRUS Coalition Secretary Alex Derr of The Next Summit. “By addressing gaps in the statute and simplifying signage requirements, this legislation will help protect access to iconic peaks, trails, and outdoor areas for future generations.”
Outdoor Access Under Threat in Colorado
The urgency for this legislative overhaul was sparked by a 2019 lawsuit against the US Air Force Academy, involving a mountain biker who sustained severe, life-altering injuries. The case resulted in a $7.3 million judgment and significantly heightened liability concerns among landowners as to the liability protections afforded by CRUS.
The decision created a chilling effect that spread across the state. Landowners faced higher insurance premiums and began to restrict public access due to a sense of legal uncertainty. Notably, access to five Colorado 14ers was temporarily limited, the Ouray Ice Park faced ownership changes, and the Leadville 100 race introduced stringent waiver requirements. Something had to change.
Our Coalition Formed to Find a Fix
Formed after an initial legislative effort faltered, the Fix CRUS Coalition has worked tirelessly over the past nine months. It represents a broad spectrum of stakeholders – from outdoor enthusiasts to landowners, legal experts, conservationists, and local communities.
The coalition’s efforts have centered on raising awareness, expanding collaboration, and crafting a legislative proposal balancing landowner concerns with legal protections for outdoor recreationists. Today, we are thrilled to share our draft legislation.
Introducing SB-58: A Balanced Approach to Outdoor Access
The coalition proudly presents SB-58, a bipartisan bill offering a nuanced approach to outdoor access and landowner liability. The proposed legislation encompasses four key changes:
Simplified Warning System: Landowners can now opt for additional liability protection by placing a single warning sign at the main access point. This sign will cover natural and certain manmade hazards, significantly reducing the burden of individual hazard warnings.
Landowner-Designated Access Points: The bill empowers landowners to specify official access points. Entrants using alternate routes would be considered trespassers, offering landowners robust legal protection.
Defined Visitor Boundaries: Visitors are required to adhere to trails, routes, or areas designated by the landowner. Deviation reclassifies them as trespassers, again limiting landowner liability.
Expanded Activity Coverage: The bill updates CRUS to include emerging popular activities like trail running, backcountry skiing, rafting, and kayaking.
Notably, the bill preserves crucial aspects of CRUS. Landowners remain unprotected if they charge for access, retain the right to specify permissible activities, and remain liable for malicious actions.
Looking Ahead to Protect Colorado's Outdoor Heritage
The Fix CRUS Coalition is committed to a bipartisan dialogue with legislators, aiming to safeguard Colorado’s natural landscapes for public enjoyment and future generations. We also plan to support landowners with free access point warning signs, further easing the transition.
If you support outdoor access in Colorado, please contact your state senator and representative and tell them you support SB-58 to protect access to iconic Colorado outdoor gems like the 14ers, Ouray Ice Park, and many other trails, climbing routes, and wild areas.