Vermont Recreation DirectoryHERE | Education Network
A Guide to Access to Natural Resources in Vermont For Guides, Educators and Groups
Accessing land can make or break a guide-outfitter service. Knowing the rules and planning ahead will make life easier on land management as well as on businesses and organizations hoping to use the natural resources. General rules of thumb are; know the area before you apply, protect landowners in your waiver forms, get insurance and also name the landowners in your policy, leave no trace, make no extra work for land owners/management, apply well ahead of your intended use dates, establish a maximum group size and stick to it and practice good outdoor ethics towards the natural resources and other users of the resource.
New Limitations on Landowner Liability:
Public Recreation on Private Land, (Booklet)
Advantages and Disadvantages for Outdoor Enthusiasts
By Afi Ahmadi
In 1998, the Vermont Legislature enacted a new set of laws that limit the liability of landowners who make their undeveloped land and water courses available to the public for recreational purposes. 12 V.S.A. § 5791, et seq. For outdoor enthusiasts, the upside of passing such a law is clear: more landowners will likely allow the use of their open and undeveloped land*including paths and trails*for activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, biking, hiking, skiing, water sports, and other similar activities. In addition, the law requires that the land be made available for use by the public free of charge. Thus, the Vermont Legislature clearly intended to pass a law which would allow for far greater access to the Vermont outdoors.
Of course, there is a downside for those who would like to take advantage of the newly unrestricted territory. The new law also maintains that the owner of the land is not liable for property damage or personal injuries sustained by a person who goes upon the owner's land for recreational purposes, unless the injury is the result of the "willful or wanton" misconduct of the owner. In Vermont, to show that a landowner acted with willful or wanton misconduct, one would have to show that the act was done "intentionally, designedly, knowingly, or purposely, without justification or excuse." State v. Parenteau, 153 Vt. 123 (1989). Willful or wanton misconduct requires actual or implied intent to injure. Hardingham v. United Counseling Service of Bennington County, Inc., 164 Vt. 478 (1995). In essence, the new laws suggest that the duty an owner of undeveloped land owes to the recreational user of land is identical with the duty the owner owes to a trespasser on his land. Baisley v. Missisquoi Cemetery Ass., 167 Vt. 473 (1998). Thus, should an outdoor enthusiast become injured on someone else's undeveloped land, the likelihood of placing blame on the landowner would be extremely difficult.
The new legislation not only refers to undeveloped land, but includes streams, rivers, and other water courses; bridges and walkways used to enter and go upon land; and fences. Therefore, recreational users must be prepared to use caution even when simply gaining access to undeveloped land. The law expressly provides that the fact that an owner has made land available*free of charge*for recreational users, does not mean that the owner provides any assurance that the land is safe; nor does it create any duty on an owner to inspect the land to discover dangerous conditions. It would make sense for guides*prior to bringing any groups to previously untraveled areas of land*to first inspect all bridges and walkways to test their safety.
Finally, although a landowner has made land available for recreational purposes, he is still entitled to enter into agreements for the recreational use of land which vary or supplement the duties and limitations created by the new law. Thus, should an organization become fond of a certain area of land, they are free to negotiate a fee with the landowner for use of his land. The owner's liability, then, would likely be governed by the terms of the agreement.
Afi Ahmadi works for the law firm Dinse, Knapp and McAndrews in Burlington, Vermont.
By Karen Sharpwolf
The Green Mountain Club (GMC), the State of Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (DFP&R), and the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF) have been collaborating for the past year on an easy-to-use brochure for group users of the Long/Appalachian Trail System in Vermont.
Through its caretaker program, the Green Mountain Club has been tracking group use of the LT/AT at high use sites for five years. In the 1999 hiking season, 232 groups met caretakers at sites, and 130 of these were on Mt. Mansfield. This information is entered into a database, and it is used to track use, educate group leaders, and assist in management plans for the trails. To date, more than 400 groups are listed in this database.
It is clear from the GMC database records and the high volume of group use inquiries we regularly receive, that many leaders are confused by the myriad of rules and regulations pertaining to trail use in Vermont. The LT/AT system is located on a patchwork of federal, state, and private land withdifferent policies from parcel to parcel, and trail to trail leaving many group leaders confused and potentially out of compliance.
In April 2000, the new brochure will be available through the partners, and Vermont Outdoor Guides Association. This brochure is a collaboration between the GMC, GMNF, and DFP&R in an effort to provide leaders with concise, easy-to-use information about the entire LT/AT system.
Here¢s a sneak peak at some of the basic information included in the brochure:
· Call the GMC before you go! Please notify the club or your schedule prior to your backcountry trip. With this information, GMC can track backcountry use on the LT/AT, and prepare caretakers for large groups. It is also beneficial to group leaders*we can advise you if other groups are planning to be at the same site at the same time, reducing overcrowding of sites. Please note: for overnight use, this is not a reservation system¯
use of shelters on the LT/AT is on a first come, first served basis.
· Please be familiar with Leave-No-Trace practices: 1) plan ahead and prepare, 2) travel and camp on durable surfaces, 3) dispose of waste properly; 4) leave what you find, 5) minimize campfire impacts, 6) respect wildlife, and 7) be considerate of other visitors.
· Avoid hiking in spring when trails are muddy. State lands are closed during mud season and re-open on Memorial Day weekend.
· Group Size/ Day Hikes: In designated Wilderness Areas within the Green Mountain National Forest and in fragile areas such as alpine summits (Mt. Mansfield, Camel¢s Hump, Mt. Abraham) and shorelines (Stratton Pond, Sterling Pond), the recommendation for the maximum number in a group is 10 (including leaders).
For day hikes in most areas, the recommendation for the maximum number in a group is 20 people (including leaders). Ideally groups should be much smaller than twenty, or broken into sub-groups with leaders.
If you must travel big, hike to less-popular areas. Break into smaller parties and use different trails to get to the same destination, or hike on the same trail but leave at staggered times. Keep subgroups from converging at the same spot at the same time until back at the parking area.
· Group Size/ Overnight Hikes: It is recommended that groups are no larger than 10 (including leaders). Long Trail shelters were not designed for large groups, and due to limited space, the GMC recommends 4 to 6 in a party. A group should not take up more than ½ of any shelter. Use of shelters on the LT / AT is on a first come, first served basis and backpacking groups should be self-sufficient and carry their own accommodations (tents and / or tarps). An overnight fee is charged at high use shelters when caretakers are present (Memorial Day through Columbus Day. The GMC may be instituting a pre-pay system for groups so you don¢t need to carry cash with you. For updated information, contact the GMC.
For a copy of the brochure, please contact VOGA or the Green Mountain Club. It is still necessary to contact the State and GMNF directly for permit applications.
Dave Bosch, Green Mountain National Forest: (802) 747-6746
Ed O'Leary, State of Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation: (802) 241-3683
Green Mountain Club: (802) 244-7037;
Established in 1910 to build the Long Trail, the Green Mountain Club is a private, nonprofit organization with more than 8,000 members. Vermont¢s historic Long Trail was the first long-distance hiking trail in the United States and the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail. Beyond its trail maintenance work, the GMC manages and protects the Long Trail System, publishes guidebooks and maps for hiking in Vermont, and runs outdoor and conservation workshops. Every year, more than 500 volunteers work so that future generations may enjoy the 445-mile Long Trail System. Twelve GMC sections maintain portions of the trail system and lead a four-season schedule of outdoor recreation activities.
These two lakes are international waterways and commercial services using motorized vessels need a Captains License issued by the US Coast Guard. Phone 802-862-0376.
The Connecticut River is owned and managed by New Hampshire. The tributaries flowing into the Connecticut from Vermont are under New Hampshire regulation from the Connecticut up to the first bridge in Vermont.
Fishing guides using these waters need to be licensed in New Hampshire and should contact Major Kevin Jordan 603-271-1131 at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. Guides for paddle sports and other non motorized water activities are not regulated on the Connecticut River.
Outdoor Guide Association