On behalf of the 70 volunteer-based, member organizations of WeConservePA (formerly the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association) and their more than 100,000 Pennsylvania members, I ask you to support HB 1694, which will come before the House this week. The bill passed unanimously out of the Tourism and Recreational Development Committee on October 27.
This bipartisan bill will provide commonsense limited liability protections for volunteers and volunteer groups who give freely of their time to maintain and improve parks, trails, and other recreational areas open to the public. At no cost to taxpayers, their voluntary service makes these community assets safer and more accessible; their service creates more enjoyable outdoor experiences for everyone.
House Bill 1694 will protect volunteers and volunteer groups from being drawn into litigation merely because they have helped with parks, trails, and other lands open to the public rather than because of real negligence on their part. Fishing expedition litigation saps the energy of volunteers and jacks up insurance premiums, diverting charitable dollars from community projects and making volunteerism unaffordable.
The bill addresses a real-life problem. For example, the Friends of Pennypack were sued twice for accidents that had nothing to do with their trail work. As a result, their insurer withdrew its insurance coverage and the volunteer group was forced to disband. It is terrible for communities to lose the vitality and energy brought by volunteers. Fortunately, HB 1694 can prevent such loss.
Thank you for your consideration.
Andrew M. Loza