Park Service Backs Off Recreation Insurance Hikes in Colorado

August 26, 2013

The National Park Service is reconsidering increased insurance requirements for whitewater boating outfitters in Dinosaur National Monument after companies said a big jump in the liability insurance could sharply drive up their costs and possibly even make it impossible for them to stay in business.

The National Park Service has backed off for now. Democratic Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall said they will take up the issue with the Park Service on Monday. They are being joined by U.S. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; and John Boozman, R-Ark.

The Park Service on Friday called for a time-out.

“We received a high volume of questions and we need time to work through those questions,” said Jennifer Parker, chief of concessions for the agency’s Intermountain Region.

As a result, 11 concession contracts due to expire Dec. 31 will be extended up to a year.

The Park Service planned to increase the aggregate liability insurance coverage to $5 million, which contractors said could raise premiums by 60 to 80 percent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported .

Contractors also objected to plans to require things such as “pollution coverage,” something they say isn’t warranted.

“If you were potentially doing fracking on your outfitting trip it might be justifiable. But outfitters aren’t into fracking,” said David Brown, executive director of the American Outdoors Association, an outfitter industry organization.

While the envisioned requirements are specific to Dinosaur, Brown said one concern is that they would be imposed elsewhere, and they argued everyone should be treated the same.

Contractors say the Park Service reduced a general liability insurance requirement from $5 million to $2 million in Grand Teton National Park after complaints from the industry and insurance experts.

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