Action Alert! You can’t go there anymore!
Editor’s note: Mr. Lindblade attended the April 16 Creating the Rock River Trail Conference, held at the Best Western Clock Tower Resort & Conference Center and CoCo Key Water Resort, and the April 17 canoe trip from Oregon to Grand Detour. He recorded that trip and posted his wonderful footage on YouTube. You may view his fine work at www.rockrivertrail.com. Everyone working on the project offers our happy thanks, and welcomes him to a regular column in The Rock River Times. Like Mr. Art Norris, Mr. Lindblade actually takes a public stand, and undertakes public action to affect public policy on the environment, unlike too many comfortably hiding in the “Green Fashionista” safe zone, while they expect others to act.
By Tom Lindblade
The Illlinois Paddler
Dear paddlers, if the Trial Lawyers have their way, “You can’t go there anymore” is a phrase we are likely to hear a lot more often. We have already heard it twice. In the last year, two favorite outdoor sites in Illinois have been closed to the public as the direct result of landowner fear of liability.
For more than 40 years, paddlers and other outdoors people in Illinois had a deal with private land owners that said, in effect, “If I, as a landowner, allow you free access to my land for recreation (or allow you to paddle through my land), you won’t be allowed to sue me.”
The deal was called the Recreational Use of Land and Waters Act, it included all recreational activities, meant that landowners didn’t have to fear liability, and that a lot of privately-owned land and water was made available for recreation. The deal worked very well, and cost the government and the taxpayers nothing.
Everything went well until 2005, when the state Supreme Court struck down the law for technical reasons. That was when the Trial Lawyers proposed new language that excluded all outdoors people except hunters, and meant landowners lost most of their protection from lawsuits. This change has already resulted in the closure of Draper’s Bluff to rock climbers and the closure of the Vermilion River to paddlers.
More closures are inevitable, and they could easily become an epidemic. A bill (HB 6072) designed to restore the original protections to landowners was introduced by Rep. Fritchey in February, and even though it is supported by 90 organizations and governmental bodies, it is going nowhere because of opposition from the Trial Lawyers, who obviously make money off that unnecessary lawsuits, and don’t like something that would eliminate them.
What you can do
Contact your state representative and senator and urge them to support HB 6072. Their contact information is listed at www.rockrivertimes.com, under, “Contact Your Public Officials.”
Contact the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and demand they get out of the way:
ILTA President, Peter J. Flowers, Geneva Ill., e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
OpenLands takes the lead
At the 2010 Conservation Congress, Lenore Beyer-Clow, Policy Director at Openlands, launched a public awareness campaign that offers the following tools to help restore liability protections:
→ Sample Fact Sheet
→ Sample Action Alert (General)
→ Sample Action Alert for Conservationists
→ Sample Action Alert for Educators
→Sample Action Alert for Recreationalists
→ Sample Letter to the Editor
→ Sample Letter to State Senator and/or Representative
→ Sample Web Page Content
→ Sample E-mail Requesting Organizational Support
→ Supporting Organizations List
For Openland’s tools and more, go to: http://www.openlands.org/index.php/Policy/Issues/recreational-access.html.
We hope you will keep us informed of any paddling-related issues that you may have, and we, in turn, will keep you informed as to what we are doing to make Illinois a Paddler-Friendly State.
You can contact me at: Lindbladet@sbcglobal.net or The Illinois Paddling Council, 2138 Clinton St., Rockford, IL 61103
From the April 28-May 4, 2010 issue
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