Oregon Climbing Bridge Closed After Court Ruling

September 23, 2016

An acclaimed recreational climbing route and one of the only overhang climbing areas in the country has been closed because of liability concerns.

The Oregon city of Redmond doesn’t intend to permanently shut down the Maple Bridge Arches Climbing Project, which is constructed on the underside of the bridge’s arches, officials told The Bulletin.

According to parks and recreation manager Annie McVay, Redmond’s insurance company called in June to say it would not renew coverage for the bridge in the wake of a March ruling by the state Supreme Court. In that case, the court found that a legally blind woman could sue the Portland employee who dug a hole in a park that later caused the woman to injure herself while running.

Before that decision, it was believed that employees and volunteers would be protected from liability, along with the owners of free recreational facilities. McVay said Citycounty Insurance Services told her it now considers the climbing bridge too risky.

“We tried to get (CityCounty) to reconsider – we really think that the activity is very safe and has a lot of safeguards – but it wasn’t successful,” explained McVay.

The climbing project wasn’t considered a liability when it opened in July 2015. Officials believed they were covered by the 1995 Oregon Public Use of Lands Act, which protects public and private property owners from liability if their land is available for free public use. The recent state Supreme Court case, however, found that that immunity doesn’t extend to employees who maintain the property.

Scott Winkles, an Oregon League of Cities intergovernmental relations associate, said the climbing bridge isn’t the only property impacted by the ruling.

A handful of playgrounds and a public motocross track in Pendleton have been closed, and Klamath Falls decided not to pursue a bike park, said Winkles.

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