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March 15, 2023

“Completed legislation.”

This phrase, as applied to HB 3560, created a cause for celebration among those determined to elevate Pendleton County rock climbing as a premier adventure sports experience. It meant that a crucial piece of area tourism plans may now fall into place.

Introduced and solely sponsored by Gary Howell, House Chair of Economic Development and Tourism and delegate from Mineral County, the bill officially expands a 1931 state law defining “land” and “recreational purposes.” Recreational purposes now include rock climbing, rope related sports, and “bouldering activities.”

The most crucial effect lies in allowing landowners to opt into arrangements “that would take away liability from the landowner if injury occurs.”  In other words, if a private landowner wanted to allow access to a rock formation on his or her property, they could allow climbers if they will waive liability. Rock climbing would then fall under the same “assumption of risk” category that keeps a person from suing a major league baseball team if they get injured by a foul ball.

“It’s actually a bigger deal for private landowners than anyone else,” says Laura Brown, Pendleton County Economic Development Authority director. She went on to say that “what we are hoping is . . . we will be able to then speak to landowners with rock formations on their land about allowing people to use their rocks.”

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