Monday, September 18, 2000
Steamboat Springs Half a decade of conflict will come to a head tonight when City Council votes on the first reading of an ordinance banning commercial tubing on parts of the upper Yampa River.
"We're loving this river to death," said Bridget Ferguson, a member of the Steamboat Springs Trails and River Committee. The Trails and River Committee has been a participant in a number of discussions amongst fly fishers, tubing companies and the city in the past two years in regards to what some deem overuse of the Yampa.
The seven commercial tubing companies operating out of Steamboat Springs may be subject to an ordinance restricting them from using the public areas of the river and its access points from Confluence Park to Ski Town Lions Club Park. The tubing companies traditionally put in at Rotary Park and take out at the bike path at 11th Street.
Private tubers will still have access to the upper Yampa no matter what the council decides.
Commercial tubing could continue further down the river, said Chris Wilson, the director of the parks and recreation department. No formal deal has been made between the city and the tubing companies about this option. Also, the lower Yampa is spotted with private property, to which the tubing companies might have trouble gaining access, Wilson said.
The tubing community is up in arms about the ordinance, which some say will put them out of business altogether.
"It would ruin my business. I would not be able to operate," said Peter Van De Carr, the owner of Backdoor Sports.
Van De Carr believes a tubing course relegated to the lower part of the Yampa, less than half the length of the previous course, would be nowhere near as inviting to tubers. The river spreads out and gets much lower farther down the river, causing tubers to pick up their rubber donuts and walk.
The tubing companies are at cross purposes with a group of fly fishermen who have laid claim to the upper Yampa. Those fishermen, organized under the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers, believe that the public is being crowded off the river by the tubers.
"In the public part of the river, it's difficult for the public to use it, especially if you want to fish," said Jim Curd, the president of the flyfishing organization.
Their indignance stems in part from their belief that federal grants given to the fishers through a "Fishing-is-Fun" program are being violated by non-fishing uses of the river. Removing tubing, they believe, would end this conflict.
Van De Carr, however, said the removal of commercial tubing would be extremely devastating to the people who use the river. Commercial tubing would just be replaced by private tubing, which would not be subject to the companies' rules, he said. Those rules, including making people wear life jackets and keeping them from consuming alcohol on the river, would no longer be enforceable.
A second ordinance, which would not ban tubing but would modify regulations on river use, has also been proposed. Understanding how the two ordinances work together, however, is almost as difficult as navigating a Class 5 rapid in a tube.
The second ordinance imposes a new structure for river regulations and a higher use fee on commercial enterprises serving groups from tubers to canoers. In effect, the ordinance establishes a 5 percent use fee as opposed to the old 50 cent fee which would cost the companies more money because most tubing companies charge at least $12 to rent a tube. It also replaces regulations mandated by a "city manager's rule" with regulations mandated by an ordinance. Establishing an ordinance allows for public comment on the regulations and makes the regulations more clear, Wilson said.
This second ordinance, if adopted without the first ordinance, would allow tubing companies to continue operating in the upper part of the river. If the council decides to implement parts of each ordinance, which Wilson believes may be the case, the language of the ordinances could be changed before a second reading.
"I don't think they'll both be adopted as they stand," Wilson said.
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org