October 2012 - Parks & Recreation - 38

LAW REVIEW

OBVIOUS TREE HA Z ARD ON PARK SLEDDING HILL

As a natural part of the terrain, trees
generally pose an open and obvious
hazard to recreational users, including
the risk of colliding with trees during

recreational activities. That being said,
when the landowner locates trees in
close proximity to a known recreational use area, like a sledding hill, it may

turn what would otherwise be an open
and obvious natural hazard into an unreasonably dangerous condition upon
which to base landowner liability for
negligence.
As illustrated by the case described
herein, the trees at issue were not part
of the original landscape and, more
importantly, not necessarily an open
and obvious natural condition under
the circumstances. On the contrary,
the allegedly dangerous tree hazard
was a manmade condition created
as part of a park reforestation project.
Moreover, the potential hazard these
trees posed to recreational users was
known to the landowner, but not necessarily open and obvious to invitees
on the premises. Further, invitees to a
public park have a reasonable expectation of safety that the premises are
not hazardous for foreseeable public
recreational uses, like sledding on a
sledding hill.
Even if open and obvious, under the
distraction theory, the landowner perhaps should have known that recreational users could become distracted
and not be able to protect themselves.
Moreover, depending on the circumstances, a government agency that
maintains land upon which the public is invited, like a public park, might
be expected to anticipate harm to recreational users from otherwise open
and obvious natural conditions.

Planner Ignored Forester

See us in Anaheim at booth #1461
36

Parks & Recreation

| OCTOBER 2012 | WWW.NRPA.ORG

In the case of Connelly v. City of Omaha, 284 Neb. 131; 2012 Neb. LEXIS 94
(7/20/2012), Rachel and Chelsea Connelly were injured in Memorial Park in
Omaha, Nebraska, when their saucertype plastic sled collided with a tree.
The Park was available for recreational
purposes free of charge. The City was
solely responsible for planting, maintaining, and removing all trees in the



October 2012 - Parks & Recreation

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