Steamboat Springs One local tubing company owner has decided, due to new city regulations banning commercial tubing on the upper Yampa River, that he can't afford to run his business anymore.
On Friday, Peter Van De Carr, the owner of Backdoor Sports and part-owner of Rock and Roll Tubing, tore down the shed next to the Double Z Bar and Barbecue on Yampa Avenue that has been in operation for 11 years. Although Van De Carr will continue to run a tubing operation from Backdoor Sports, he said the dismantling of the shed, which held Rock and Roll Tubing, was a telling demonstration of how a small business can disappear.
"We got shut down by the city," Van De Carr said. "The city forced us downstream and now we really don't think we can make a living renting tubes."
Van De Carr said the $15,000 in rent he pays each year on the shed and the other costs of running the business would not have been made up by the rides he could sell on the lower part of the river.
Modifications the city was planning to make on the lower Yampa that would have helped tubing on that stretch were progressing too slowly, according to Van De Carr.
The city, in fact, is only going to do about a quarter of the modifications which include channelizing the river by placing hundreds of boulders in it this summer, saving the rest for later on. Parks Supervisor Mike McCannon said the city didn't have enough money to complete all of the modifications. The work they have done was primarily on the area between the Stockbridge Multi-modal Center and the James Brown Bridge, McCannon said.
City Council decided on Feb. 20 to restrict commercial tubing on the river above Fifth Street this summer and conduct a study of the river as well as make the modifications to the lower Yampa.
Tubing company owners and fly fishers have been arguing about how to protect the Yampa, especially in the downtown corridor, for almost a decade now. The decision, while presumably a temporary one, was seen by many as a victory for the fly fishers, who in turn saw it as a victory for the river.
Ironically enough, Van De Carr may be selling fly fishing supplies to make money now.
"We've got to find a new way to bring home the bacon," he said.
Nonetheless, Van De Carr may be the only operator out of the six commercial tubing operators to opt out of the tubing business for the summer. Cookie Lockhart of Lockhart's River Ranch was unavailable for comment, but all the other operators have decided to attempt to work despite the new regulations.
Jon Duty of High Adventures, however, said he will be cutting back on operations this year, and though tubes will still be available at his shop, he will likely not be shuttling people to and from the river.
Toby Hemmerling, the owner of Blue Sky West (formerly Buggywhips) said he thinks the change will not, in fact, harm his business to a significant degree.
"I think people will still want to tube," Hemmerling said. "It's just going to be a matter of figuring out how to provide that experience to them."