Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Protecting the Future of Our Bike Clubs

There is a lot of speculation about the REI-funded Culvert project contract work at Auburn State Rec Area. Thought I would share some thoughts and background. Note that this message is from me personally and is not from the BONC board.

I was and continue to be VERY concerned with inadequately insured trail improvement projects that leave local mountain bike clubs exposed to lawsuits and possible liability. As a BONC director, I am personally concerned with protecting my family, assets and future. Organizations like FATRAC and BONC do so much good that it would devastate the trails community to see these groups shut down because an injury that results in a lawsuit. For this reason, I have been a strong advocate for adequate insurance protection for clubs I've worked with for many years. I am also close friends with several of FATRAC's board members.

Those involved with the Scott's Flat Project know that I continue to have these concerns about liability. I brought this directly to the attention of Zachi Anderson, FTA leader in November 2011. He responded that insurance was unnecessary for such trail work (see excerpt of email below dated 11/3/11). Other colleagues of mine have heard FTA representatives also question the need for insurance.

I completely disagree with the stand that proper insurance is unnecessary. Because of my years as a bike club president and California IMBA State Representative, I know that liability for trail work with heavy equipment, axes, sharp tools, rock, etc. very much leaves us exposed to risk. I personally know of someone who was sued because of a volunteer trail lawsuit. It was a nightmare.

In 2011, FATRAC won a grant of $10,000 to improve sections of the Culvert Trail. Various professional contractors (including Randy Martin and Forest Trails Alliance) expressed interest in this paid work. Late last year, I expressed my concern to FATRAC and State Parks management that uninsured paid contract work could leave FATRAC exposed to lawsuit. I therefore urged both State Parks and FATRAC to make sure that paid contractors have proper insurance so the projects can move forward without risk. I now regret contacting State Parks directly about this because it led to a number of misunderstandings about my intentions. I also regret not making it clear to State Parks that I was not speaking on behalf of BONC, but myself; I never said I was, but I think this was taken as implied.

Last week, I contacted FATRAC leadership to address unpleasant rumors circulating in the community about me. During this call, I never mentioned insurance or spoke on behalf of BONC.

To be clear: the Culvert rehabilitation project involves paid contract work and the recipient of this money is FTA. This is not a bad thing at all, but it may shift the insurance requirements. Standard RJF (IMBA) trail volunteer insurance may not provide coverage for project partners if any payment is made beyond material reimbursement as it was to FTA. RJF is currently investigating this.

In the meantime, Forest Trails Alliance should publicly provide evidence of:
  • Exactly what insurance coverage they have
  • Precisely when this coverage began
This evidence should be forwarded to BONC and land management agencies as soon as possible so that it is clear whether proper coverage exists for these organizations for our projects. The issue can be resolved and we can get back to building trails in a way that does not leave us liable.

dated 11/3/11

"While insurance may be a good idea, this community project is just like all the trail work that has been done since I started the first bike shop in the area in 1986.  No insurance demanded of volunteers.  While some of our groups may have insurance, this will only cover members and not volunteers.  In addition, the focus should be on good management, planning and trail building BMP as insurance does not repair wounds or injuries."


Unknown said...

This is Randy of Trailscape. I do quite a bit of volume and do some government work so I have to pay the price for liability insurance. If I did not I would similarly resist the $2000 annual premium unless I was convinced of the risk. I would study and see if the risk is real and verify that the state is not carrying this umbrella anyway. I think Fatrac also caries a policy. $2000 spent on trail can go quite a ways when volunteers are involved. As a donor I would be discouraged if I thought my $ were getting spent on insurance instead of trail work.

Borg said...

Just trying to understand why you would not go directly to the FTA board and ask the question. I mean with your actions it sure looks like you were trying to undermine trail production.

This does help explain some of your actions so thanks.

Will be very interesting to see if you post this comment on the blog. That will speak volumes along with your answer to your true intentions.

Thanks John!

John said...

Hi Randy. I too hate the idea of idea of donor money going to insurance. However, we are in California where lawsuits are common. Thus, it is important protect these organizations and individuals from such liability. What is key here is that the *clubs, directors, volunteers and members* are protected. A good attorney will look around to find whomever they can sue when an incident occurs.

John said...

Brad, please read the blog post carefully. Long before I contacted FATRAC or State Parks, I first contacted Zachi Anderson (FTA founder and board member) about the lack of proper insurance. See his response. It is pretty clear that my intention was to protect these bike clubs, their directors, volunteers and members from devastating lawsuits.