Hovey Recreational Land Use Bill Clears Judiciary Hurdle

During today’s meeting of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee a measure that provides immunity to cities and towns under the Recreational Land Use Act of 1971 was overwhelmingly passed.  Representative DebraLee Hovey (R-112), a member of the Judiciary Committee and co-sponsor of the legislation said the bill goes a long way in assisting with the preservation of open space and protecting the state’s natural resources.

“The ability of municipal governments to proactively work to preserve open space and recreational land has been increasingly jeopardized by the exposure of liability those local governments have for injuries that occur on these land,” said Rep. Hovey.  ”We have seen towns throughout the state that have been forced to limit the activities on these recreational lands due to the threat of personal injury suits as a result.  The result is the defeat of one of the primary purposes of investing enormous resources in preserving the land in the first place.”

Hovey said the measure approved today in committee would provide immunity from such lawsuits to towns who are custodians of this open space or recreational land.

“Under current law private landowners who make available all or a portion of their land to the public for free are protected from personal injury suits that might arise from its public use,” said Hovey.  “Unfortunately, town and city governments don’t have this same protection.  This bill corrects that.”

A 1996 Connecticut Supreme Court decision, Conway v. Wilton, removed the protection of municipalities.  The increasing costs and mounting liability coupled multimillion dollar court awards have jeopardized open space and land use plans by causing many local governments to determine the cost and risk is too high.

“Through this bill, we are attempting to remove a very significant legal road block which prevents towns from improving our quality of life and our natural environment,” said Hovey.

The legislation must now move to the full legislature for a vote.  This session of Connecticut General Assembly will adjourn at midnight, June 8th, 2011.

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