Tuesday, February 6, 2001
Steamboat Springs After talking about restricting use of the river for at least four months, the city made its first move Tuesday night to ban commercial tubing on the upper Yampa for this summer.
Despite complaints from Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell, the city's elected officials agreed not to ban other commercial outfitters from the upper stretch of the river above Fifth Street, allowing kayaking, canoeing and fishing companies to operate in that area.
The City Council: * Voted to begin financing Centennial Hall through a lease-purchase agreement with Wells Fargo Bank that would not need to be presented to the voters. * Reviewed progress on the city's new Community Development Code. * Voted to approve a wireless facilities plan that could limitthe construction of facilities on city-owned historical properties.
Private non-commercial tubers, as well, will be allowed to float freely on all city-owned sections of the river.
As the proposal was only approved on first reading, it will need a second vote to be finalized.
The city's action is meant both to give the city time to test the effects of multiple-use on the river and to see if tubing operations can succeed downstream, said Parks and Recreation Director Chris Wilson.
The city recently issued a request for proposals from a consulting firm interested in helping it undertake a river management plan. That plan would consist of studying the health of the river and the various effects of user groups.
The city is also attempting to make the river more user-friendly and possibly healthier through river improvements below Thirteenth Street, Wilson said. Wilson said the proposed modifications, which were developed in meetings with the various user groups, should be finished in time for the tubing season.
Public comment, as it often is on this issue, was heated.
Cookie Lockhart, the owner of Lockhart's River Ranch, said she thinks the proposed legislation constitutes discrimination against one user group in order to appease the interests of another.
"If we're going to do this (test), let's take everything off the river," Lockhart said.
Lockhart said her business will be co-opted by department stores selling individual tubes to private consumers.
Connell, who agreed with Lockhart to a degree, said she was worried that the city was focusing too much on just one group.
Councilman Jim Engelken also expressed his concerns that the city make sure this change is a temporary one, so that the city can review all aspects of the river issue, including the effects on property owners next to the river, before coming to any final conclusions.
"I think if we are pushing the problems of the upper river to the lower river, the residents on the lower river will be screaming bloody murder," he said.
Jim Curd, president of the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers, which was singled out as the group being favored by the city, said the complaints of the tubing companies were nothing new.
"For five and a half years, they kicked they screamed," he said. "Well, they're all still in business."