This came across my inbox this week and I knew I needed to get the word out on this one. Apparently the Texas state legislature is considering a bill this session to enable cities to make use of utility easements as hike & bike trails. This could give communities access to hundreds of miles of trails — boy could we use that! Both the house and senate are in session beginning next week.
Below are all the details, including how you can help by contacting your legislator. What do you think? Let us know!
You can also keep track of your state government in action via this website: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx
Utility Easements for Recreational Use – Is it possible??
YES, it is and you can help make happen. Call or email your state senator and representative to help us pass state legislation that gives utility companies the liability protection needed to open private land to runners, bikers and walkers.
The opportunity: Utility companies own hundreds of miles of rights-of-way in cities across Texas. SB1793 & HB 3802 will allow Texas to join 36 other states in giving liability protection to utility companies who open their rights-of-way for hike & bike trails. The State of Texas has the potential for a tremendous increase in trail mileage within individual communities, connecting adjacent communities and recreational areas.
The Bill: In the 2011 session, the Texas legislature will consider Senate Bill 1793 and House Bill 3802. When enacted, this legislation will create the framework whereby cities, counties and other nonprofit or governmental entities can construct hike and bike trails along rights-of-way in Houston and beyond. Public utilities that own the rights-of-way would allow hikers and bikers to enter their land. In exchange for granting access to their rights-of-way, the bill will restrict the liability of the utility for injuries or property damage that might occur when the public enters the rights-of-way for recreational purposes.
How the Process Would Work: When the bill passes, local governments and the local utility could, at their discretion, enter into a license agreement allowing the public access to a right-of-way. The city or other entity would then construct and maintain the hike and bike trail along the right-of-way.
How You Can Help: These new trails will cost you a few minutes of your time.
· Write a letter from you organization to Sen. Duncan (chair of the Senate Committee considering SB 1793) that you support the bill.
· Write a letter from you organization to Rep Jackson (chair of the House Committee considering HB 3802) that you support the bill.
· Write a letter from you organization to your state senator, and ask him/her to support SB 1793.
· Write a letter from you organization to your state representative and ask him/her to support HB 3802.
· Who represents me? Find out at; http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/
· Safety benefits due to the trails distance from on-street traffic.
· Health benefits due to increase exercise.
· Trails for both residential and commercial properties that currently have limited access to outdoor recreational opportunities.
· Greater use of current parks and trails due to increased connectivity within communities and between cities.
· Reduce the demand for parking by allowing residents to walk, run or bike to our parks.
· Effective leverage of community and private assets for the public benefit.
· No need to purchase easements or property.
· The ability to locally negotiate the terms of agreement.
· Similar to liability protection provided in many other states.
We ask that you show your support by the end of next week, April 8th. We have sample form letters available if needed however, we strongly encourage each group to write their own letter or modify the samples.
Additional information and updates can be found on our Facebook page.
If you would like additional information or have questions please send me an email at Jamie.Hendrixson@gmail.com