Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Venture outdoord hits a bump in the road with insurance

Sad news from our outdoor friends on insurance is in the comment section.

When the Rec Centers and Swim Pools closed, I put a message to the firefighters union to ask them to come to the rescue in terms of insurance help. Coordination matters.

The Pittsburgh Park District would be another way to get solutions to insurance problems.

See the comments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From: Mike Schiller, Venture Outdoors Executive

Spring is just a few days away and we are as excited as you are to get outside, but we have run into a critical challenge common throughout the outdoor industry. The insurance carrier with whom we have worked has decided not to renew coverage of our outdoor recreation programming. As a result, I regret that we must cancel our outdoor activities for the remainder of March 2005. We are forced to do this because we will not have insurance to cover our liability while running these activities and we cannot run activities without insurance.

Please know that this is a temporary situation. It is not an easy decision for our staff and volunteers to cancel two weeks of great spring programming. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause as you make plans over the next few weeks. We have been working on this insurance issue for a year and we had hoped– even up to the last minute – to avoid having to cancel any programming.

As you might know, Venture Outdoors is a project of The Tides Center, a large umbrella organization that encompasses more than 250 non-profit projects across the country. Until this year, all the projects had been covered by one large all-encompassing liability insurance policy and Venture Outdoors paid a portion of the premium for this coverage. Our premium was about $6,000 per year. For 2005, the insurance company has decided to develop separate policies for each project according to the projects’ own individual risk profiles. But, in our case, the insurer declined to provide insurance coverage at all.

Together, The Tides Center and Venture Outdoors have attempted to shop the policy to the rest of the insurance industry. Many insurance companies have declined to offer us insurance at any price due to the wide variety of activities we sponsor. The lowest premium we have been quoted is $80,000 per year. At this price, we can not afford to continue to offer our outdoor activities at a reasonable cost. Thus, as of Tuesday March 15 we are canceling the next couple of weeks of activities as we research more solutions.

We will not let this stop us! Venture Outdoors is still here to serve our mission to get more people outside. We have many queries and proposals out to the insurance industry and we hope to resolve this whole issue in a timely and efficient fashion so we can get back to doing what we love. We are hopeful that all of our activities will run in April and we will keep you posted as we make that determination.

Here are some details about what this may mean to you:

Office. The Venture Outdoors office remains open. Our Web site remains current and Contours, our e-newsletter, will be published on schedule. This issue is in no way a reflection of the viability of our organization and we are confident that we will be back to "adventure as usual" in the coming weeks.

Activities. All Venture Outdoors activities for the remainder of March are canceled. Anyone who has already registered and paid for a trip during March will have their money refunded. We will accept registrations for activities in April and beyond but will not ask for payment until we are certain that the activities will actually run. We may find insurance for only certain activities, so stay tuned to know which activities we are able to run and when.

In the meantime, we encourage you to check our web site and participate in some outdoor activities conducted by our partners and other local clubs and organizations.

Membership. For our new, renewing, or expiring members this month, we will extend to you an additional month of membership for this inconvenience. This includes people who sign up during this transitional time; for many people membership is about more than activity price discounts, it is also a way to show your support for the mission of Venture Outdoors, and the future of outdoor recreation in our region.

Banff Mountain Film Festival, April 13, will run no matter what. The limited insurance that allows us to keep the office open will also cover this great evening of adventure films at The Byham Theater, so buy your tickets now, before it sells out.

Venture Outdoors Festival, May 21, will go on as planned. We will find special event coverage for the day, and this fifth annual festival of outdoor recreation will once again grace the North Shore of Pittsburgh. Please plan to join us.

Kayak Pittsburgh. Our kayak rental concession on Pittsburgh’s North Shore is scheduled to open May 1. We are quite hopeful that we will have the insurance in place to allow Kayak Pittsburgh to open on schedule (the Allegheny River permitting.) All season passes and coupon books remain valid and usable for the season.

Insurance. Venture Outdoors models our training and policies on those used at the Appalachian Mountain Club, NOLS and other industry leaders. We have great trip leaders who consistently run safe and fun activities. We have an excellent safety record. Our challenge is to identify insurers who are familiar with outdoor recreation, who recognize the steps Venture Outdoors takes on all trips to mitigate risk and with whom we can work to continue to build a strong calendar of activities for our members and participants.

Long Term Outlook. Together, we’ve made great progress promoting the outdoors over the past few years and we intend to continue. We appreciate the support you’ve shown us and we’re not about to fold up our tents. No one ever said it would be easy changing the culture to include more outdoor recreation and environmental awareness here in western Pennsylvania. This is just part of that challenge.

Thank you for your support and ongoing commitment to our success at Venture Outdoors. We encourage you to get outside – spring is just about here! – and there are plenty of great organizations in this region with whom you can find the appropriate outdoor activity. We’ll join you again just as soon as we get our insurance squared away.

See you outside.

Mike Schiller, Executive Director
Venture Outdoors
304 Forbes Ave., 2nd Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
phone: 412-255-0564 x22