|Farm Office Blog
Ohio Ag Law Blog–Farms, recreational activities and legal risk
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019
Written by Peggy Kirk Hall, Associate Professor, Agricultural & Resource Law
With summer in full swing, Ohio’s poor planting season won’t dampen the desires of those who want to use farmland for recreational activities like fishing or riding ATVs. And while we worry over the washouts in so many farm fields, an archaeological buff recently explained that those wash outs provide a good opportunity to find arrowheads and other relics. The fact that a field wasn’t planted didn’t stop a hot air balloon operator from asking a farmer if he could land in the unplanted field recently. Even when the land is not highly productive, Ohio farmland is always appealing to recreational enthusiasts for these and other types of recreational activities.
But what if a farmer doesn’t want recreational enthusiasts on the property or doesn’t want the risk of potential liability for a recreational user? A few of our resources provide guidance for these situations, which we can address in two important questions:
1. Do you not want people engaging in recreational activities on your farm? If so, then take a look at our law bulletin on The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Trespassers on the Farm. If you don’t give a person permission to come onto the farm for recreational purposes, the person is trespassing if he or she chooses to enter the property without your permission. But be aware that a landowner can’t intentionally put a trespasser in harm’s way and in certain situations, can be liable for a trespasser who suffers harm on the property. Know the legal rules for dealing with trespassers so that you can protect your property without risking liability. We explain these rules and situations in the law bulletin.
2. Are you okay with letting a person use your farm for recreational activities? If so, you’ll want to read our law bulletin on Okay to Play: Ohio Recreational User Statute Limits Liability for Hunters, Snowmobilers, and More. Ohio’s Recreational User Statute offers immunity to landowners who allow recreational uses, but only if the landowner meets the four conditions of the law. A landowner of nonresidential premises who gives permission to a person to engage in recreational activities without charging a fee doesn’t have the traditional legal duty to keep the recreational user safe from harm. Our law bulletin explains each of the statute’s important conditions in detail so that a landowner can qualify for its liability protection.
Like the weather, managing the risk of recreational users and trespassers on the farm is a constant challenge for farmers. But unlike the weather, a landowner can effectively control this type of risk. When someone shows up to fish, ride ATVs, hunt arrowheads or land a balloon on the farm, be ready by having a good understanding of the laws that apply to recreational activities on the farm.