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:
- 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.
- 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.
Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
A new Ohio law affects farmers that plan to use certain utility vehicles for farm work, including Gators, Mules and other utility vehicles with a bed designed to transport cargo. The new law is part of the 2018-2019 transportation budget, formally known as House Bill 26. HB 26, which goes into effect on June 30, 2017, permits utility vehicles to travel on any public road or right of way other than a freeway when travelling from one farm field to another for agricultural purposes.
Under HB 26, utility vehicles are now expressly required to display a triangular Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) emblem. Previously, it was up to local law enforcement to interpret the law and decide whether a utility vehicle should have a SMV. The new law also clearly allows utility vehicles to travel on public roads between farm fields, whereas the old law required farmers to know whether the county or township allowed utility vehicles on the road. Utility vehicle operators can read more about the old law in our previous blog post on APVs, ATVs, and four-wheelers here.
What Qualifies as a “Utility Vehicle?”
Farmers should be aware that this law only covers what it defines as “utility vehicles.” This means that the law only applies to vehicles designed with a bed for transporting material or cargo related to agricultural activities. Not all ATVs and APVs will be included in this definition.
The law is good news for farmers. Those who plan to use a utility vehicle on the farm should know the following before taking the vehicle out:
- In order to legally use a utility vehicle on a public road, a driver must be traveling from one farm field to another farm field for agricultural purposes.
- Utility vehicle drivers must display a SMV on any utility vehicle used on a public road as it travels between farm fields.
- Ohio Revised Code Section 5589.10 prohibits the placement of earth, mud, manure, or other injurious materials on a public highway. Therefore, farmers should avoid leaving such debris in the roadway or should clean up the roadway if a utility vehicle leaves mud behind.
More information on HB 26 is here, under Sec. 4511.216 on page 328 of the bill.