Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 124

03/22/2006 01:00 PM RESOURCES

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01:55:50 PM Start
01:59:00 PM HB415
02:21:11 PM Board of Game
02:25:59 PM Big Game Services Board
02:33:30 PM HB420
02:45:34 PM HB419
02:53:14 PM Board of Game
02:54:12 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Meeting Postponed to Session Adjourn--
Moved Out of Committee
Moved Out of Committee
Moved CSHB 420(FSH) Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
HB 415-LIABILITY FOR RECREATIONAL LAND USE                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS announced that the  first order of business would                                                               
be HOUSE BILL  NO. 415, "An Act relating  to landowners' immunity                                                               
for  allowing  use  of  land for  a  recreational  activity;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  informed the  committee that HB  415 seeks                                                               
to allow  public use  of private  land for  recreational purposes                                                               
with immunity  to negligence granted  to the landowner.   He said                                                               
there wouldn't  be immunity for  gross negligence  or intentional                                                               
or  reckless conduct.   He  referred to  letters of  support from                                                               
boroughs, the  [Alaska] State Chamber of  Commerce, the [Kachemak                                                               
Heritage] Land  Trust, the [Alaska]  Soil and  Water Conservation                                                               
District,   ski   associations/organizations,  and   individuals.                                                               
Currently, the recreational statute  only applies to the inherent                                                               
risks, but not to the land, which is nonspecific, he said.                                                                      
1:59:00 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said  HB  415 is  strongly  supported  by                                                               
people across the state, especially in his district.                                                                            
CO-CHAIR RAMRAS stated that he  doesn't anticipate contention and                                                               
requested that testifiers be concise.                                                                                           
2:00:30 PM                                                                                                                    
ANNE MARIE  HOLEN, Assistant  City Manager,  City of  Homer, said                                                               
she's testifying on behalf of  Walt Wrede, city manager of Homer.                                                               
She  noted  City  of Homer  resolution  0630,  expressing  strong                                                               
support for  HB 415 and  said outdoor recreation is  important to                                                               
Homer's identity  and economy.   Most residents of  Homer support                                                               
trails development,  but some landowners who  would be interested                                                               
in  establishing   public  trails  through  their   property  are                                                               
understandably  nervous about  liability.    This bill  addresses                                                               
these  concerns and  clears up  ambiguity  in current  law.   She                                                               
concluded, "HB  415 should  be welcomed  as an  easy 'no-brainer'                                                               
that will have a positive impact throughout the state."                                                                         
DAVID BRANN, Kachemak  Nordic Ski Club and  trail volunteer, said                                                               
he's a founding member of the  Coalition for Homer Open Space and                                                               
Trails (CoHOST).  He said  recreation plays a significant role in                                                               
the  state's economy,  and trails  are  important for  year-round                                                               
residents and  visitors.   Demand for  recreational opportunities                                                               
is growing,  he noted,  but [landowners]  have been  reluctant to                                                               
sign  a  conservation easement  to  protect  them from  liability                                                               
because easements would  be in perpetuity.  This  bill aids large                                                               
landowners such  as Native corporations  as well as  his neighbor                                                               
who allows trails across his one-acre  property.  He said it also                                                               
would provide more  opportunity for trails in  urban and suburban                                                               
areas where many recreationists live.                                                                                           
2:04:46 PM                                                                                                                    
MILLI  MARTIN said  she serves  on the  [Kenai Peninsula  Borough                                                               
Assembly],  but  is  representing  herself.   She  mentioned  the                                                               
assembly's resolution  2006-027, which she sponsored.   She would                                                               
like to see  the ski trails extended and to  offer a trail across                                                               
her own private property.  She  expressed her reluctance to do so                                                               
until this bill  passes.  She said there's an  opportunity on the                                                               
southern  Peninsula to  extend trails  from  Baycrest to  McNeil,                                                               
which won't  happen until there's  protection for  landowners who                                                               
allow those trails across their land.                                                                                           
DAVID SCHEER,  Partner, D &  A Design,  stated that his  firm has                                                               
been  working on  a  number  of projects  in  Homer that  involve                                                               
planning and development of large tracts  of land.  He noted that                                                               
the  majority  of these  projects  are  planned with  significant                                                               
areas of  open space,  trails, and  wildlife corridors,  but that                                                               
it's  a struggle  to figure  out how  to allow  public access  to                                                               
these  private lands  without opening  his  clients to  financial                                                               
liability.  As a designer and  developer, he said this bill would                                                               
be a  great design tool  and would  also increase the  ability of                                                               
property owners  to decide the  best use of  their own land.   He                                                               
said it  will also benefit the  public.  He added  that this bill                                                               
would  not only  allow cities  to see  an increase  in public-use                                                               
areas, even  while economic growth and  development infill vacant                                                               
lands, but  the private  land open to  public use  also increases                                                               
public recreation space with no additional burden on taxpayers.                                                                 
2:07:38 PM                                                                                                                    
BRUCE HESS, Founding  Member, Coalition for Homer  Open Space and                                                               
Trails,  relayed that  some  of the  subdivisions  in Homer  lack                                                               
pedestrian amenities.   He  has researched  the possibility  of a                                                               
trail  serving part  of his  subdivision.   He said  the existing                                                               
statutes  regarding  immunity   and  liability  don't  adequately                                                               
protect a  private property owner.   He said HB 415  would remedy                                                               
that situation and make people  much more comfortable in allowing                                                               
trails and recreational use on private property.                                                                                
2:09:45 PM                                                                                                                    
LINDSAY  WINKLER, Homer  Soil  and  Water Conservation  District,                                                               
Department  of Natural  Resources (DNR),  stated that  she's also                                                               
representing  herself as  a landowner,  and she's  on the  Alaska                                                               
Trails Board.   She  said the Homer  Soil and  Water Conservation                                                               
District  is  a division  of  DNR  and  one  of the  only  public                                                               
agencies that strictly represents  private landowners.  This bill                                                               
provides  the  clarity  that  is  missing  from  the  other  four                                                               
statutes, and  the language is  standard and has been  adopted by                                                               
about  45  states.    She   said  HB  415  doesn't  threaten  the                                                               
landowner's  private  property  rights  because  it  specifically                                                               
states  that informal,  noncommercial  use  doesn't constitute  a                                                               
basis  for a  prescriptive  easement.   She  referred to  Section                                                               
3(b)(1) and  gross negligence,  and in  regard to  liability, she                                                               
characterized it as clear.                                                                                                      
2:11:42 PM                                                                                                                    
MARUS  KILCHER agreed  with the  preceding testimony.   She  owns                                                               
several large properties  in Homer and is trustee  of the Kilcher                                                               
family homestead.   She expressed the  Kilcher family's enjoyment                                                               
from sharing its property with  others for recreational use.  She                                                               
said her primary  concern is liability, and this  bill would make                                                               
it easier on both the landowners and the public.                                                                                
AL   POINDEXTER,  Executive   Director,  Alaska   Association  of                                                               
Conservation  Districts,  said   the  association  represents  12                                                               
conservations districts in  Alaska.  He commented  that a primary                                                               
benefit  of this  bill  is relieving  the  anxiety of  landowners                                                               
regarding hunting  on their land.   His board supports  this bill                                                               
unanimously.  "The bill allows neighbors to be good neighbors."                                                                 
ROBERT ARCHIBALD  stated that  he has 35  acres outside  of Homer                                                               
and having trails on his property  is a positive thing for skiing                                                               
and  other  recreation.   He  added  that  without some  sort  of                                                               
liability disclosure, his ability to  allow trails on his land is                                                               
limited.  He said that he is in full support of this bill.                                                                      
ROBERTA  HIGHLAND, Kachemak  Bay  Conservation Society,  informed                                                               
the  committee that  the society  has approximately  130 members.                                                               
She said  that it  strongly supports  this bill.   She  relayed a                                                               
dream for Homer to be connected by trails.                                                                                      
2:15:02 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  moved to  report HB  415 out  of committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes.  There being no objection,  HB 415 was reported out of the                                                               
House Resources Standing Committee.                                                                                             

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