A recreational immunity statute does not confer blanket immunity on all who make their property available without charge to the public for recreation[i]. It is not the nature or quality of the land or the uses to which it is put by its owners, but the nature of the use the public makes of it, i.e., recreational activity, that determines the applicability of a recreational immunity statute.
An owner does not owe a duty of care to a person who enters his/her property to engage in a recreational activity. Additionally, “an owner is not liable for the death of, any injury to, or any death or injury caused by, a person engaging in a recreational activity on the owner’s property”[ii].
Generally, recreational use statutes include, in the text of the statute, a definition of recreational use or recreational purpose. These definitions usually include a list of activities such as hiking, swimming, fishing, pleasure driving, nature study, etc.
A recreational purpose includes such activities as fishing, hunting, camping, water sports, hiking, spelunking, sport parachuting, riding, including animal riding, snowmobiling; and all other types of vehicular riding, rock collecting, sightseeing, picnicking, nature study, nature contacting, recreational gardening, gleaning, hang gliding, winter sports, and viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, natural, or scientific sites[iii].
The Wisconsin recreation use statue sets forth a three-part definition of a recreational activity[iv]:
- The first part – any outdoor activity undertaken for the purpose of exercise, relaxation or pleasure, including practice or instruction in any such activity;
- The second part – specific activities denominated as recreational, including tobogganing and sledding; and
- The third part – other outdoor sport, game or educational activity.
[i] ALM GL ch. 21, § 17C.
[ii] Wis. Stat. § 895.52.
[iii] Cal Civ Code § 846.
[iv] Wis. Stat. § 895.52.