A major win may be on the horizon for Texas climbers. After targeted advocacy efforts by Access Fund and local climbers, State Representative Ryan Guillen filed House Bill 487 last week to add rock climbing as a defined activity in the Texas recreational use statute. If passed, this bill will limit the liability of landowners who open their property to climbing.
All states in the U.S. have recreational use statutes that immunize landowners (private, municipal, and state) from liability when they allow the public to access their land for recreational activities. A recreational use statute generally provides that a landowner is not responsible for accidents and does not need to give warning of dangerous conditions of which they are unaware.
Today, only a handful of states—including Alabama, Colorado, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin—explicitly name “rock climbing” in their recreational use statutes. Having climbing explicitly named gives landowners an additional layer of protection, and could be the tipping point that gives them the confidence to open their property to climbing.
Texas is home to dozens of privately owned crags that are not currently open to climbing. If this legislation passes, it will lay the foundation for access discussions with landowners and has the potential to dramatically increase available climbing resources in the state. In addition, climbing at Texas State Parks, such as Hueco Tanks and Enchanted Rock, would benefit from the increased protections and added legitimacy afforded under the bill.
The bill will be heard by the Texas Legislature when they convene in early 2017, and if signed into law by the Governor, it could go into effect by spring.