Three dozen households in the Dream Island neighborhood will host a giant three-day block party this weekend whether they like it or not. It's safe to predict that almost 1,500 uninvited party guests will float by their back yards on inner tubes.
We're hoping the party comes off without a hitch, but it would be naÃive to believe there's no chance for it to become ugly. This spring, when construction crews began stream improvement work in the river, one man attempted to block heavy equipment from entering the river and a second was arrested after firing two shots from a handgun in the general direction of heavy equipment operators in the river.
The debate over commercial tubing operations here goes back more than five years. But the current situation can be traced to city action taken two summers ago.
City Council decreed in 2001 that henceforth commercial tubing operations in the Yampa would shift downstream from the Fifth Street Bridge. The decision was a well-intended effort to spread out the impact of recreational activities on the Yampa. But it meant the daily armada of inner tubes now navigates a stretch of the river where mobile home owners formerly enjoyed relative peacefulness.
The stream improvements were undertaken with the approval of the owner of the trailer park. And that's an important distinction to draw.
The hard facts of the matter are that the residents of Dream Island own their homes, but do not own the mobile home park itself. The owner of the park decided to cooperate with the city's stream improvement project. His tenants will have to live with the results.
Having said all that, we don't think the ability of Dream Island residents to feel comfortable and secure in their homes should be shrugged off.
The city is in the midst of doing the right thing with regard to the river. Steamboat is in the second year of a long-planned study to accumulate a body of science and opinions that will guide future decisions about how best to manage recreation on the river. Having fun and engaging in commerce will be among the considerations. We hope that the overriding concern will be the health of the river.
Even before the study is complete, we think the community could do more to engage the Dream Island neighborhood. City government is to be complimented for undertaking an exhaustive survey to find out how residents of all of Steamboat's neighborhoods feel about recreation on the Yampa. The parks and recreation director has promised Dream Island residents will have ample opportunities to air their concerns. For the residents of ground zero, greater efforts might be warranted. The dramatic events of this spring underscore the need to keep in close contact with Dream Island residents.
City Council candidates may find themselves knocking on doors in Dream Island this fall asking for the support of voters. We submit that this summer is the time to knock on doors in Dream Island and hear what the residents have to say. Listening to the neighbors could help to diffuse the tension.
In fact, City Council and city officials might consider hosting a party of their own -- make it an ice cream social at the mobile home park. We could call it the first Dream Island Ice Cream Float. Tubes not required.