By: Alisha Thompson
The Davis City Council met May 31 in an emergency meeting to discuss Cross Bar Offroad Park not having general liability insurance. Councilman Stan Jones was absent from the meeting.
A notice of Termination – Termination of Possession was sent to Mid Ground Creators (management team of Cross Bar Offroad Park, led by Justin Ramsey) on June 1 after the Emergency Meeting detailing three items that Cross Bar Offroad Park is in default.
Cross Bar Offroad Park has no general liability insurance. The contract issued between Mid Ground Creators and the City of Davis when the group took over management in 2017 states that the Park must maintain Worker’s Compensation Insurance and Comprehensive or a General Liability Insurance Policy in the amount of $5 million. The default letter read “The failure to maintain insurance has exposed the City and DMA to potential liability. Insurance must be brought current. At the meeting the City asked for proof that the Workers’ Compensation is current. I trust that document is forthcoming.”
Rent for 2021 has not been paid in the amount of $25,000. Rent is expected on or before April 1. Cross Bar Offroad Park is expected to pay a late fee per their contract to the City of Davis.
A payment in the amount of $14,2000 was made to the City of Davis on June 1. It is unclear if that is the 2% of proceeds for the year payment or a partial rent payment.
The third item in which the Park is in default is failure to meet the benchmarks negotiated among parties. Years 1 through 5 benchmarks have not been met.
Something that worked in Midground Creator’s favor was the fact that, per their contract with the City of Davis, was they have 90 days to fix an issue. That means they have 90 days to address the current default letter for non-payment of lease, insurance and failure to meet benchmarks.
Councilman Clint Grinstead asked a significant question during the meeting, can you make your lease payment and secure insurance? Brian Trotter, who is part of the management team at Cross Bar Offroad Park, could not answer the question.
Councilman Grinstead made the motion at the end of the May 31 Emergency Meeting to send the Notice of Termination – Termination of Possession and see a new contract with Midground Creators on the agenda for the June 13 City Council meeting. Grinstead said that the group has had a year and a half to negotiate this contract, he didn’t see where two more weeks would hurt.
Trotter, employees of Cross Bar Offroad Park and a representative from Offroad Business Association was present for the meeting. Ramsey and his attorney, Justin Landgraf, were not present for the emergency meeting.
Mayor Brian Davis said when the issue of Cross Bar Offroad Park not having general liability insurance was brought to his attention the week before he felt it was best to call an emergency meeting so the issue could be discussed in public.
While some argued that Cross Bar failing to maintain insurance was a safety issue and left the City of Davis vulnerable, City Manager Andy Holland said that it was not a safety issue, it was a financial issue. “By having insurance or not, its not going to make a difference if people are protected or safe. What it does is gives us an additional layer of protection against any liability that could come from some kind of an accident at Cross Bar,” Holland explained. “So we weighed the risk of worst case scenario and it was a financial decision that we recommended to you, the Mayor.”
The City of Davis is protected under the governmental Tort Claim Act. If a lawsuit is levied against the City of Davis for an injury at Cross Bar Offroad Park, the city could be on the hook for up to $150,000, for each accident.
A default letter was issued on May 24 for no insurance and Mid Ground Creators responded with no intent to hold the city liable in case of an accident.
Mid Ground Creators and the City of Davis have been working to restructure their contract since Dec. 31, 2020. “I think we are both looking for a fair and equitable contract for both sides to address milestones and also the term of the contract. Who had the authority and the right to extend the contract. As written, the lessee had full control if they wanted to exercise the options or not. It should be a unilateral agreement before we extend the agreement. As a municipal government we can not give away our right to terminate the contract.”
Holland said that he met with the management group a few weeks ago and there is a rough draft of the contract but they are not ready to present it to the city attorney, yet.
While it was agreed that Cross Bar Offroad Park was in the business of “an inherently dangerous” activity and the possibility of suspending operations for 90 days was suggested, the City decided to let Cross Bar continue to operate.
Employees of Cross Bar Offroad Park said that they “are working to protect you (the City.” They make sure every person who enters Cross Bar (including children) sign a waiver and Trotter said that he makes patrols with first aid ready to render medical aide to anyone in need.
While councilmen agreed that they are not putting the City or citizens at risk, they reminded those present from Cross Bar that they need to continue making sure waivers are signed and need to do what they can to protect patrons.
The Davis News spoke to Ramsey over the phone on June 1.
Ramsey said “I will take 100% blame for this.” He said that he knew Cross Bar didn’t have insurance for a year. He was faced with a choice to purchase insurance or move forward after investors pulled out of their operation and other issues plagued the group. He chose to move forward to operate the park with the gate money coming in daily. Calling his misfortune “a good run of bad luck.”
One bit of bad luck Ramsey and his team weren’t expecting was that Ultra 4 has a new owner. That means the Ultra 4 Championships will not be held in Davis. Ramsey said his team had already purchased items needed for the event when they got the bad news. Those purchases added to the Park’s financial setbacks.
Ramsey said that when they were handed the keys to Cross Bar Ranch, he went in blind, not knowing what needed to be done to run a successful offroad park, but learning daily. “We have had to grow along the way. We learned to develop and stay above the trends. I think we’ve done a great job.”
His team is working on a trial system to Turner Falls Park. He is actively working with Turner Falls Park to bring equestrian and mountain biking to Cross Bar Offroad Park. His team has added 10 new RV spots with power and water.
“Our intent is to grow the park, to invest in it,” Ramsey explained. “We want to partner with the City and that would eliminate the need for outside insurance.” Ramsey said that he is now a private landowner inside Cross Bar Offroad Park as of last week, driving home his intent to make Cross Bar Offroad Park the best it can be.
While, those that don’t offroad will say that they don’t have a reason to visit Cross Bar Offroad Park, Ramsey invites them to come anyway to see the Park. “Look at what we’ve done with our hands tied behind our backs. With zero money from investors.”