Tubers dot the Yampa River near downtown Steamboat Springs on a Saturday afternoon in July 2007. On Wednesday night, city parks and recreation officials debated strategies for mitigating impacts of the activity that is surging in popularity.

File photo

Tubers dot the Yampa River near downtown Steamboat Springs on a Saturday afternoon in July 2007. On Wednesday night, city parks and recreation officials debated strategies for mitigating impacts of the activity that is surging in popularity.

Tubing concerns discussed at work session meeting

Additional enforcement, education among strategies discussed


By the numbers

Tuber counts at the Stock Bridge Transit Center, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Private: 43

Commercial: 313

Total: 356

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Private: 261

Commercial: 343

Total: 604

— Dozens of strategies - from writing more tickets to using volunteer groups - were debated Wednesday to confront the negative impacts associated with the popular summer activity of tubing the town stretch of the Yampa River.

Ideas focused more on preventative measures than on increased regulation. The discussion at a work session meeting of the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission was prompted by concerns previously raised by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. DOW officials at Wednesday's meeting said they hope more rigorous steps will be taken if the lighter measures prove to be unsuccessful this summer.

At a meeting of the commission last month, DOW officials presented a proposed ordinance that would prohibit tubers from entering the river from city property above the Fifth Street Bridge downtown. DOW fisheries biologist Billy Atkinson acknowledged there was little hope of enacting such a measure this year.

No official action was taken at Wednesday's work session meeting, but Chris Wilson, the city's director of parks, open space and recreational services, committed to placing the issue on the commission's action agenda at its regular meeting April 8.

"This isn't the end," Wilson said. "This is the middle."

Mechanisms to implement or pay for the suggestions also were not discussed Wednesday, but it was clear there would be a heavy reliance on volunteers.

"The big question is finding enough volunteers to make it happen," said Peter Van De Carr, who headed up a group that discussed establishing a "Respect the Yampa River" campaign. Van De Carr said he already plans to purchase $700 worth of bumper stickers sporting the slogan.

Atkinson said he also has been assured by Steamboat Springs police Capt. Joel Rae that his officers will take increased steps to cite people who violate existing city codes such as illegal parking at river access points and alcohol consumption on the river.

Some of the ideas batted about Wednesday included:

- Legally swearing in city open space employees to allow them to issue citations for code violations

- Limiting the hours that tubers would be allowed to access the river from city-owned access points

- Developing a lottery system that would require tubers to obtain a permit to put in the river at given access points

- Retooling the city's ordinance that prohibits open containers of alcohol on the river to also prohibit closed containers; as it stands, a person can legally enter the river with an unopened beer only to open it later

- Establishing an adopt-a-river program whereby individuals or organizations could commit to cleaning up trash on a particular stretch of the river

- Discounts for commercial tubing customers who turn in trash at the end of their float

Those who attended the meeting were asked to sign up to volunteer for one of four groups that will work to address problems in four areas: education and enforcement, the Respect the Yampa River campaign, litter and data collection.

Scott Ford headed up the data group, and he noted that the city will be able to more effectively tackle the problem with meaningful data. Ford said there is no clear understanding of who the problem users are.

"The lack of data just has us guessing," Ford said.

The DOW officials at the meeting said none of these groups addressed their main concern, which is that clashes between tubers and anglers are undermining the millions of dollars the DOW has spent to improve the fishery of the town stretch of the river.

"There was nothing addressing our main concern, which is conflicts with other user groups," DOW District Wildlife Manager Danielle Domson said.

In response, Wilson also created a fifth volunteer group to address that issue.

For more information or to volunteer, call the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department at 879-4300.


sickofitall 8 years, 1 month ago

Pardon my French, but the tubers are only allowed to put in at Fetcher correct, or is it the Highway exit? In either case, anglers have alot of river upstream of the "tubing" areas. I do not quite understand how the D.O.W dictates who can and who cant use the river by improving it. So because Kayakers built the C and D holes, when we see flyfishers with thier string in the H20 should we be upset? Man, tubing used to be soooo simple, just plop in. Now it is a major recreational activity, the masses have ruined it for the locals. I suspect fly fishing is becoming popular too and therefore more congestion. I have always thought if you want privacy fishing, there are better places than downtown Steamboat Springs. I am happy that good folks like Peter can make a dime on it and I would hate to see that disappear.


Troutguy 8 years, 1 month ago

The real sad thing here is that people need to be "educated" about not destroying the Yampa. Don't throw trash in the river and obey the rules. Seems pretty simple to me. I think it says more about our society than anything else. The rules apply to everybody else but me attitude.
Sickofitall, part of the problem with the private tubers is that they put in where ever they want to, rules be damned. I gave up fishing the Yampa thru town years ago because of tubing on the river. You're right. There are great places to fish all around the valley, but I should be able to fish once in a while near town too without being overrun with tubers. Do they have senior water rights to the river or what? Is there a way to have a small stretch of water above town as fishing only?


Brian Bavosi 8 years, 1 month ago

Let's let the commercial tubers make "more than a dime" so they can increase efforts for education. Ban private tubing and send more business to the commercial tubing. The commercial operations do educate their users and do not allow certain items on the water with the tubers. They provide mesh bags for trash already and prohibit alcohol.

The solution seems to provide greater economic vitality for the existing operations and would allow the user groups of the river to have established representatives when discussing issues for each group.

It seems simple and would generate more tourism revenue for the commercial operations.


sickofitall 8 years, 1 month ago

Troutguy, I thought the Chuck Lewis area was fishing only. Is this wrong?


Steve Lewis 8 years, 1 month ago

DOW's millions of dollars invested? Could someone tell me where it went? They must be talking about above or below town.

Aside from the city $$ applied to the C and D holes, I only know of private efforts between Fish Creek and 13th St. What did DOW invest in this stretch?


Troutguy 8 years, 1 month ago

Chuck Lewis is supposed to be fishing only, but that's where people have been parking and putting in. There's just no enforcement of the existing rules. I don't think the tubing outfitters are to blame here. They have a vested interest in keeping the river healthy, same as fisherman. It's the people with their own tubes that seem to be the problem. In a perfect world, everybody would follow the rules and respect the river. Unfortunately, there are a few people out there who just don't care. Banning private tubers wouldn't be a solution, because that would almost give ownership of the river to the few outfitters in town. Want to tube the river, gotta pay. Somehow, we need to come up with a way for tubers to have a section of river, and fisherman can have a slice of river somewhere upstream from that.


sickofitall 8 years, 1 month ago

The best part is you paddle that little river at 3000 cfs and you dont see anyone! woot woot!

OK, so the problem is illegal access. There has got to be a way to outsmart these villians..


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