Steamboat Springs Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Cam Detlefsen says the large numbers of tubers on the Yampa River really got to him over the Fourth of July holiday. Detlefsen became so weary of tubers crossing his property to enter and exit the river that on July 4 he erected a sign along the river bank he now believes was "rude." But he says he didn't mean the threats in the sign to be taken literally, and he needed to make a point.
"The sign was up a total of maybe three hours over the weekend," Detlefsen said. "I don't think I was out of line there. The sign was put out there to express an opinion and I am not a threatening person."
The sign read: "Do not stop here!! Loose dogs will be shot on sight. Stray women will be violated (raped or worse). Unattended children will be turned over to Social Services!! Go back to where you ass hoes (sic) came from. Take your trash with you!!"
Detlefsen said he has lived in Steamboat Springs for 30 years and owns an acre of land with about 125 feet of river frontage in the Brooklyn neighborhood on River Road. Over the years, he said, he has worked hard to improve his river frontage to create a beach and a fishing hole where he can dangle his feet in the river and unwind from the workday.
Detlefsen also has kept a "no trespassing" sign facing the river. But that hasn't kept tubers from crossing his land to enter and exit the river, he said.
Last summer, he said he emerged from his garage to find a young boy shivering and sobbing on his river bank after being separated from his tube and his family. The parents were on the opposite bank, but were unable to cross over. Detlefsen said he introduced the boy to his dog and spoke to him to reassure him. Then he called out to the parents that he would meet them with the boy at the Fifth Street Bridge. The boy safely returned to his parents, Detlefsen went his own way. But he said not all of his encounters have ended so successfully. People also have emerged from the river with minor injuries and later sent him letters implying they intended to sue him, Detlefsen said. As a result, he said he now pays higher liability insurance.
"You know what? I don't want to put (the tubing companies) out of business. But if you've lived on the river if somebody came on your property and broke their leg you could be liable. This is my land. I've go tools, I've got boats, I've got tractors. It's not a junkyard, but it's got hazards."
Detlefsen said his holiday weekend began when he came back from an out-of-town construction job. He immediately noticed the large number of tubers on the river and also noticed the shuttle vans that transfer tubing customers running up and down River Road.
Detlefsen said he resolved on July 3 to visit the various tubing companies to ask them to modify their van routes so that not all of the trips were up River Road. He said his intent was to make a friendly request he knows he can't tell people not to drive on River Road. And he feels it's a good ideas for the vans to travel on River Road on the way to the put-in because they can educate their clients to the various landmarks, including private property. But he thinks it's reasonable to ask them to reduce the traffic impact on Brooklyn by returning via U.S. 40.
Detlefsen said he visited all of the tubing operators with the exception of Bucking Rainbow Outfitters and received a generally favorable response.
Peter Van de Carr of Backdoor Sports said he agreed to Detlefsen's request.
Assistant Police Chief Art Fiebing said he regards Detlefsen's level of frustration as a symptom of increasing multiple uses of the river. He added that Detlefsen has a right to freedom of speech.
"However, when signs get insulting or threatening, it's nice if people would take down the signs voluntarily, which is what he did," Fiebing said.
Fiebing said the problem Detlefsen has brought up involves people trespassing on his property. And although the police department has not given out trespassing citations in connection with tubers, and does not intend to begin doing so, he wants people to respect private property.
"You have to realize that when you go on private property without permission, you are breaking the law," Fiebing said. "I would prefer the tubing companies educate their clients."
Lockhart's River Ranch Tubes manager Brenda Burbach said all of her company's customers are given a list of do's and don'ts before before launching their tubes. That includes respecting private property.
She said she will consider rerouting the company's vans onto U.S. 40 for one half of the trip. Lockhart is the only tubing company in town that owns property near the put-in at Rotary Park, and thus, shuttles its clients back up river to their vehicles.
Burbach also is glad Detlefsen has taken the sign down.
"If I floated by, I'd probably laugh it off," Burbach said. "But the customers aren't laughing. It doesn't reflect well on Steamboat for the tourists to see a sign like that."
Detlefsen said he has paid a lot of dues over the years to live in Steamboat and has eaten a lot of "beans and weenies" to pay for his property. He now owns it free and clear, he said.
"I am very protective of my land, and that's what constitutes a redneck," Detlefsen said.
Detlefsen said he believes 95 percent of the tubers are good people having fun on vacation. But about 5 percent of the tubers create the situations that keep him from enjoying his river-front property the way he believes he's entitled to.
Detlefsen said he recently went to the lumber yard and bought a role of yellow plastic tape with the word "caution" repeated on it. He hopes that by stringing it from his trees, he can deter people using the river from crossing his property.
Burbach said the steady decline in the river level this month is probably going to bring an early end to the tubing season.
"When it stops being fun for our customers, we stop," Burbach said. "When they have to walk half the way, it's not fun."
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