Launching the Fix CRUS Coalition to Protect and Expand Outdoor Recreation Access in Colorado
The Next Summit is proud to announce it is working with a group of partners to launch the Fix CRUS Coalition: A collaborative initiative that aims to strengthen the state recreational use statute to protect and expand public access to land for recreation. Working with the Colorado Mountain Club, Boulder Climbing Community, Access Fund, Alpine Start, and several other partners, we’ve developed an initial strategy, brand, and website to begin organizing and growing our membership.
Colorado's Recreational Use Statute (CRUS) Needs To Be Fixed
Many hikers, climbers, and recreational enthusiasts have no idea that the CRUS exists – but it is a critical part of the outdoor recreation ecosystem that makes private and public land more accessible to millions of people. By providing landowners stronger liability protection in exchange for free public access, the law encourages them to open their properties by limiting the risk of a lawsuit if someone is injured.
However, in 2019, a high-profile lawsuit against the Colorado Air Force Academy found them liable for $7.2 million after a mountain biker hit a washed-out section on a trail they did not build or manage. Because the Academy knew about the washout but made no effort to warn or guard the public from it, the court found that an exception in the law applied that removed their protection and left them open to a lawsuit.
This legal result had an immediate chilling effect across the state as liability insurance providers started to raise prices to account for this higher level of risk. Many owners were unable or unwilling to pay these higher rates or were themselves concerned about a lawsuit – and decided to simply close access to their property instead to limit their liability risk. While the CRUS remains strong, the perception has changed – and perception is everything when it comes to liability.
We Can Protect Landowners While Also Disincentivizing Negligence
The Fix CRUS Coalition is taking a balanced approach to this issue. We do not want to remove all exceptions from the Colorado recreational use statute, as we agree that landowners should be held accountable in extremely negligent or malicious situations. That said, we need to find a way to ensure that well-intentioned landowners who do their best receive the benefit of the doubt and an assurance that they will be protected under the CRUS.
This feat will not be easy to accomplish. The influential Colorado Trial Lawyers Association aggressively opposes any effort to reform liability law in Colorado that results in stronger protections and fewer lawsuits. We will need to assemble a broad-based coalition across the private, public, and non-profit sectors to overcome the challenge and make the changes we need to succeed.
To support our mission, please consider joining the Coalition as a formal organizational or individual member. With your help, we can protect and expand access for outdoor recreation all across Colorado for decades to come. Thank you for your support.
Our Fix CRUS Coalition Partners
Alex is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.