Commercial tubing on Yampa

City Council to weigh upholding ban on upper part of river

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The Steamboat Springs City Council tonight will consider permanently banning commercial tubers from using the upper stretch of the Yampa River.

A commercial tubing ban has been in effect since 2001, restricting commercial tubing between the Fifth Street Bridge and the James Brown Bridge.

The ban is set to expire in May. Part of the Yampa River Management Plan, which the City Council approved Feb. 3, recommends keeping the restrictions in place.

The ordinance that will be considered tonight also places a 5 percent fee on gross revenue from companies' use of city property for river-related recreational activities.

The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at tonight's council meeting.

The ban "had the desired effect of reducing conflicts between the various river user groups while at the same time preserving the viability of commercial tubing businesses," the ordinance reads.

The tubing ban first went into place in 2001 and was extended for two years in 2002. Commercial tubing companies and Dream Island residents complained, but fly fisherman asked that the ban stay in place permanently.

This time around, no public opposition has been voiced during the numerous public meetings on the management plan and the first reading of the ordinance, said Chris Wilson, city director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services.

A citizens advisory group worked on the river management plan for nine months and represented a wide spectrum of river users and members of the Trails and River Committee.

The Parks and Recreation Commission then approved the plan.

The groups decided the less the river was used upstream for recreation, the better, Wilson said.

"It is less developed as you move farther up the river. There is more open space, less urban in development, less channelization," Wilson said. "We tried to keep the same sort of attributes both environmentally and aesthetically," Wilson said.

Although opposition did not come during the approval process, Wilson said the group, which had representation from commercial tubing operators, did discuss the ban.

As a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission and the citizens advisory group, Peter Van De Carr said he approved the river management plan but does not agree with its recommendation to restrict commercial tubing from the upper Yampa River.

The owner of a commercial tubing operation, Van De Carr said the restrictions create too small of space for the commercial tubing activity.

"The solution to pollution is dilution," Van De Carr said. "If you spread that (use) out a little further, it will be much more beneficial."

The ordinance also tightens up language regarding access fees for commercial operators who use the river. Currently, the city has a 5 percent gross revenue fee on rental tubes and other river recreational equipment.

The ordinance would expand that 5 percent gross revenue fee to river recreation activity on any city-owned property. The fee would cover guides, lessons and fishing trips.

"Everybody always tries to find a way around paying taxes," Van De Carr said. "There were some loopholes in there. Now we made it so everybody has to pay the same."

The money generated from the fees goes back to river improvement projects.

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