Tuesday, February 20, 2001
Steamboat Springs The seven members of the City Council looked like the beleaguered chorus in a Greek tragedy Tuesday night as it took them more than an hour to approve a proposal to ban commercial tubing from the Yampa River above Fifth Street for the summer.
"This is not fair. This is not right. I don't know what is. That's the problem," said Councilor Jim Engelken, who was not the only council member holding his head in his hands by the end of the long night.
The proposal squeaked through by a vote of 4 to 3, with Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell, and Councilors Ken Brenner and Paul Strong dissenting. Brenner and Strong had voted to approve the proposal when it came through council on first reading.
The council members who did end up voting for the ban, including Council President Kevin Bennett, said they did so with vast reservations, relying on the months of work staff and the user groups had put into the proposal.
"This is one of those situations where we get to make everybody mad," Bennett said.
Councilor Arianthe Stettner admitted that she was unsure of her final decision when she was getting ready to vote.
"I wasn't rock solid on this. Seeing that my colleagues were also so ambivalent didn't surprise me at all," Stettner said.
The proposal to ban commercial tubing on the upper stretch of the river 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.
Connell said she felt that banning tubing and not other commercial operators who use the river, such as kayakers and rafters, was unfair.
She wasn't the only one who poked holes in a proposal that was criticized by a number of audience members.
Don Jalack, who lives in Dream Island trailer park, said he thinks the use of the lower stretch of the river by the tubers will cause a great deal of disruption in the residential neighborhoods that abut the river. He also protested proposed modifications to the river, which the parks and recreation department plans to undertake before the tubing season begins.
Tubing operators also spoke out against the proposal, reiterating concerns that it would effectively shut down their businesses. Cookie Lockhart, the owner of Lockhart's River Ranch, said the issue was no longer a "river issue," but a "recreation issue," with people who fly fish being the one recreational group that will win out.
Engelken further clarified the argument, calling it a "political issue."
President of the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers Jim Curd, however, said he sees the plan as absolutely necessary to ensure the river's health.
"When we keep cramming more into a confined and limited area, we're asking not only for more damage but more liability and less use by the public," Curd said.
After public comment and discussion, council was ready at first both to deny and to table the proposal, though tabling would have just drawn the situation out, according to City Manager Paul Hughes.
"I'm not sure that tabling this would do anything but prolong the agony this particular agony," he said.