Paddle Events & Liability

I’ve been invited to meet with a bunch of Local Officials who are interested in promoting the river as a destination for paddling enthusiasts.

They think in terms of staging “events” on the river…even if the event is nothing more than a slow-going flatwater family orientated recreation outing.

They are terrified of insurance costs & liability for any event. There is no strong local paddling club in the area to act as the “umbrella” organization for an event.

Anyone got any experiance in paddling related events that did not involve the ACA or some other sactioning organization?

Any suggestions for the plus/minuses of event insurance?

Are they looking for blanket protection against lawsuits on the river due to “events” or are they interested in event-by-event protection?

The latter makes more sense to me, because different “events” will have different risks and entry points. And you can screen participants accordingly.

If they’re trying to protect themselves from nuisance lawuits (e.g., toddler drowns while picnicking on shore because Mommy and Daddy wander away in a drunken stupor and don’t see him waddle into the river), GOOD LUCK! Too many not-my-faulters in this country to cover every possibility. Who would’ve thought those teenagers would try to sue Burger King for “making them fat” when it was their own decision to eat several Big Whopper meals per day that did it?!

My Thinking
…is “event by event,” for participants, with the municipalities general liability coverage for spectators.

I am also curious about paddling clubs that stage on-the-water events. Is ACA affilliation good enough, or is additional coverage required?

How about organized fishing derbys? Do they have the same liability issues as with a paddling event?

(As an aside, I think the whole issue of liability coverage is ridiculous for any water event. The water is inherently dangerous and a large policy may only encourage lawsuits.)

Nevertheless, I would love to hear from some event organizers who have tried to promote paddle sports…and learn from their mistakes.

BTW- the focus is to be more on rec paddling than competetive…but a few competetive fun & games will be considered.

I organized a race for the local Chamber about 10 years ago and it went well. The following year the Chamber denied my request for $300 to hold another. They were afraid it might cause “too much congestion.” However, they are still interested in developing the river as a resource.

They just don’t know what kind of resource…and they wish someone else would do it so they can take the credit.

Maybe barking up the wrong tree
This might be a good place to get some comments, but for actual experience with the liability question, maybe it’d be better to ask the local powers-that-be, such as city/county recreation managers at towns with whitewater parks, popular swimming lakes, and the like.

WW parks are multiplying, or so it seems from here (Colorado). Surely the towns involved have studied this question.

In Colorado alone: Golden, Pueblo (opens in May), Durango, Vail or Breckenridge (or both, can’t remember), Gunnison. Probably others–I don’t follow the WW scene. Other states have them, too.

In Golden on a hot summer weekend day, everybody and his little brother are in the river, private or commercial. It’s a zoo. While I assume the commercial trippers pay for their outfitters’ insurance indirectly (included in the trip fees), I don’t know what the situation is for everybody else. I probably ought to think about this more, because maybe some idiot will sue me if he makes a mistake and I just happen to be nearby.