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Goals of a Risk Management Program for trails

Every trail manager or club has a duty of care they owe to people who use their facilities.

By Pete Webber

To gain approval from the city and to secure insurance for the trail organization or club, you'll want to implement a Risk Management Program that establishes the steps you'll take to provide a reasonably safe park.

At the most basic level, there are two trail-related risk management goals:

1) minimize injuries that occur on your trails

2) minimize the losses from lawsuits

To accomplish these goals, you'll need to:

1) Design and build trails in accordance with commonly accepted guidelines.

2) Manage and maintain them consistently and responsibly.

3) Acquire the protection of a sound insurance policy.

Every trail manager or club has a duty of care they owe to people who use their facilities. Also called standard of care, it is defined as the degree of care that is reasonable and prudent. This duty of care is the focus of many trail-related lawsuits. Typically, an injured rider will claim that the trail was excessively dangerous it didn't meet a standard of care.

Duty of Care

1. Keep the trails in safe condition

2. Inspect the trail to discover hidden hazards

3. Remove hazards or post warning

4. Anticipate foreseeable activities and take reasonable steps to protect users

If you stay involved in trails for long enough, there is a strong chance that eventually you'll be faced with a lawsuit. You must prepare your defense now. Its common sense: a risk management program will save your organization time and money in the long run.

Other IMBA clubs have faced these same challenges. In particular, the BBTC is Seattle is going thru the process to create a freeride park right now. If other people have sample documents to share, send 'em over.


1) Who carries liability for a dirt jump area planned and built on public land with municipal cooperation?

Theoretically, everyone who is involved in the design, construction, maintenance, and management of trails and jump parks is responsible and could be liable. If both the city and the club are involved, both could be liable. Sometimes, one party or the other can take on full liability and indemnify the other party with a written agreement. If you build it, you are responsible for it.

2) Is there liability insurance that the city or bike club can carry for this sort of facility?

Yes, insurance is available for both the club and city and would probably be necessary. The IMBA club insurance policy will protect the club from liability claims related to trailbuilding, including jumps. However, the current policy isn't designed nor intended for jump parks, freeriding parks, and other high-risk types of trails. Additional insurance would be recommended. The city has many insurance options available to them. They probably already have insurance for their recreation facilities, and would need to add the jump park to the coverage.

3) Does construction of such an area require elaborate (and probably ugly) fencing?

Fencing to control access to the area is an option to consider. A fence is a reasonable risk management technique that should be considered along with many other strategies to minimize risk and manage liability.

Pete Webber, Communications
PO Box 7578, Boulder, CO 80306 USA
ph: 303-545-9011 x 112
email:, web:

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