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Rail Trail Liability Issues -- Risk Assessment

By Richard R. Wilson, Esquire

Ownership of a recreational trail, whether by a governmental entity or a non-profit corporation, provides a host of liability considerations. Ownership of a railroad corridor 60 feet wide and many miles long upon which the public is invited for recreational purposes ensures that there will be numerous liability questions for which the trail organization must anticipate and plan. Indeed, much of the administration and management of a rail trail is directed to minimizing risks and reducing liability exposures by providing a safe and user friendly recreational experience for the trail patron.


(1) Officers and directors liability insurance -federal legislation

(2) Third party liability insurance - Green Umbrella Insurance Program

(3) Propert-y/grade separated crossing insurance


(1) Signage - dangerous conditions, operational hours, rules of the trail, posted construction sites, temporary signage warning of danger or assumption of risk.

(2) Newsletter and membership publicafions and trail maps with rules of the trail and indications of open and closed trail sections.

(3) Trail patrol/first aid training

(4) Coordinafion plans with local police and emergency services

(5) Trail design and construction issues

(6) Releases/waiver of liability forms


(1) Title - dependent on notice of interim trail use and federal preemption

(a) actions to quiet title or ejectment

(b) slander of title

(c) trespass

(2) Injury and death of third parties - Pennsylvania Rails to Trails Act,

Recreafional Use of Land Act, third party liability insurance

(3) PA PUC crossing liabilities - Barret Amendment

(4) Abandonment issues - STB regulatory proceedings

(5) Accounting

(6) Access

(7) Joint use issues - indemnification

Richard R. Wilson, P.C., Attorney at Law
1126 Eighth Avenue, Suite 403
Altoona, PA 16602
(814) 944-5302

Presented at the 2nd International Trails and Greenways Conference, June 1999

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