Stagecoach Reservoir is likely to see an increase in boaters this weekend as summer nears. As boater numbers increase, park rangers say they’ll be keeping a closer eye on alcohol consumption on the water.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Stagecoach Reservoir is likely to see an increase in boaters this weekend as summer nears. As boater numbers increase, park rangers say they’ll be keeping a closer eye on alcohol consumption on the water.

Routt County parks keep tabs on BUI

Rangers attribute last year’s decrease to boater awareness

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By the numbers

Boating under the influence arrests by Colorado State Parks across the state

2007: 10

2008: 11

2009: 10

2010: 3

Source: Colorado State Parks

— Routt County’s reservoirs are likely to see an increase in boats this weekend as summer-like temperatures attract campers and others. Along with the increased use, park rangers say they’ll be keeping a close eye on boaters’ alcohol consumption.

Strengthened boating under the influence laws passed in 2008 have lowered the threshold for blood alcohol content, but there were no arrests for BUI at the three major state parks in Routt County in 2009. Rangers say the lull is likely because of an increased awareness with the public.

There have been two arrests by state parks rangers for driving under the influence already this year.

In August 2008, the law regulating boating under the influence was changed to reduce the allowable blood alcohol content from 0.1 to 0.08 on all boats, including kayaks and canoes. That matches the BAC level for driving under the influence laws.

Ron Dellacroce, park manager for Yampa River State Park and Elkhead Reservoir, said the drop in BUI offenses in 2009 came as a surprise.

“We did not have any BUI arrests last year. That’s huge for us,” he said. “In the past, we’ve been consistent with one or two a year.”

He said there were a couple of investigations for BUI last year but nothing that resulted in arrests.

Dellacroce said the decrease likely was caused by an increased awareness by the public and an increased presence of rangers on the waterway.

“It seems like there’s been a little more of a conscious effort by the boating public,” he said.

Julie Arington, park manager at Steamboat Lake State Park, said there were no BUI arrests at Steamboat Lake last year either.

“I think people are pretty aware that it’s an unsafe practice to drink and boat, and we’ve done a lot of education,” she said. “We are a family oriented park, especially on weekends. Most people have to make reservations to camp with us.”

Most of the park’s boat patrols focus on required on-board safety equipment, she said.

The same was true at Stage­coach State Park, ranger Mark Lehman said. It, too, had no arrests for BUI last year, though they had an arrest in 2008.

Statewide, the number of BUI arrests have remained steady. Sharon Martens, of Colorado State Parks, said there were 10 BUI arrests across the state in 2007, 11 in 2008, and 10 in 2009. There have been three thus far in 2010, she said.

Dellacroce said that all roads on state parks are treated the same as state highways, and a person driving under the influence within the park’s boundaries can be arrested.

— To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208 or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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