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Worries about liability issues regarding a newly built river access were settled by an Idaho Statute at the November 4 meeting of the Salmon City Council.

During a September council meeting local outfitter Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions mentioned congestion problems related to the temporary river access ramp currently in use which was created when the bridge to Island Park was closed. She made the suggestion that perhaps a public access could be opened elsewhere. At the October 7 meeting of the council, Councilman Jim Bockelman reported he had talked with Rex Bielby, Salmon Meadows Campground manager, as well as with the Fish and Game Department and had received a good reception to the alternate boat ramp idea.

An access through the campground’s private property has since been accomplished. At the November 4 Council meeting questions of liability being asked by the campground owner and by City Councilman Jim Baker were raised. Baker also said he had never heard one peep of complaint against the river access presently in use.

Councilmen Russ Chinske and Ken Hill immediately backed the outfitter’s complaint. Chinske said the interim ramp is a pain to use and questioned how at least 100 Steelhead season fishermen can be expected to pull in and out of it. He added there is also a lack of parking and poor access in and out of highway traffic. Hill noted the ramp is too steep and too short for big trailers to use.

City Attorney Fred Snook answered the liability question by way of an Idaho statute on “recreational trespass” which was written for the purpose of encouraging land owners to make their land available for recreational purposes. The encouragement is in the form of limits on any liabilities as long as there is no charge for the public’s use of the property. He said if there is no charge to use the ramp which has recently been built, the landowner owes “no duty of care” related to any potential safety issues and is under no obligation to warn users of any dangers or to place danger signs on the property. In short he said the landowner, in this case the Salmon Meadows Campground, assumes no liability. It was also determined no agreement is needed between the city and the campground since the city does not own the property

Baker took exception to the fact city monies had been expended, by way of equipment and man hours, to build the ramp without a formal authorization from the council. It was decided that since the new interim ramp is on private property the city will not be involved in its official opening. An amended motion to that effect was made by Jim Bockelman. It passed on a five to one vote with Ken Hill casting the only ‘no’ vote.

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