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.
By the numbers
Tuber counts at the Stock Bridge Transit Center, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Steamboat Springs 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.