Our View: Respecting the Yampa
July 25, 2010
— Under clear blue skies and temperatures that hovered in the mid-80s, hundreds of tubers — visitors and locals alike — floated down the city stretch of the Yampa River on Saturday. And by the looks of it, most of them had a truly good time.
On Monday, a different group of folks will descend on the Yampa. This group, led by Pete Van De Carr, of Backdoor Sports, will be participating in what has become a semi-annual Yampa River Cleanup Day. During last fall's outing, the 80 or so volunteers collected a depressing amount of trash from the river and its banks. Among the heap was an alarming number of plastic bottles and golf balls.
Both groups — the tubers and the cleanup volunteers — serve as a reminder of just how special the Yampa River is. The numerous recreational possibilities it offers just steps from downtown Steamboat is unique and, as a result, probably too often taken for granted. Fishing, tubing, kayaking, rafting, swimming and bird watching are top-notch on the Yampa, but each activity also challenges the river's precious and vulnerable wildlife habitat. And whether some folks care to admit it, tubing — particularly by those who forego the commercial operator route — tends to impact the river the most.
So during the time of year when river use is at its highest, it's appropriate to remind residents and visitors about the quality of the Yampa River and how tools such as the Yampa River Management Plan should be used to help preserve the river for future generations of users.
The plan, adopted in 2004 by the Steamboat Springs City Council and featuring collaboration from numerous agencies and user groups, outlines the type of river activities appropriate for particular sections of the river, as well as general guidelines that should be followed by all users.
Importantly, all private tubers should put in no farther upstream than Fetcher Park at Pine Grove Road and U.S. Highway 40. Many private tubers put in at Rotary Park at Mount Werner Road and U.S. 40, but doing so takes tubers through a slow-moving section of river that remains in a high-quality natural state. Commercial tubing operations can't have their customers put in above the Fifth Street Bridge in downtown Steamboat. It's preferable for private tubers to do the same.
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Other tubing rules and etiquette include:
■ No glass
■ No littering
■ No Styrofoam coolers
■ Respect other river users
■ Respect private property and obey quiet zone signs
■ No dogs
■ No nudity
■ No alcohol
■ Avoid standing or walking on the riverbed
■ No bathing or diapers in the river
Some of these regulations might seem obvious. But based on the volume of trash left in the river each year, some users clearly aren't getting the message. It's important that the city of Steamboat Springs, as well as commercial tubing operations and retailers that sell tubes to private tubers understand and share information from the Yampa River Management Plan with all river users. Failure to do so eventually will lead to a river that no one wants to use.
"Respect the Yampa" is the name of a local campaign to care for our precious and most valuable resource. It's also a way to remind ourselves and our visitors about what we stand to lose if we fail to live by its simple message.