Yampa River will have no new tubing regulations | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa River will have no new tubing regulations

Recreation Commission unanimously supports increase in education

Brandon Gee

— There will be a concerted effort to write more tickets for littering, parking illegally and having open alcohol containers on the Yampa River, but the city’s response to concerns about tubing will be mostly educational and volunteer-based this summer.

The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously supported a collection of suggestions Wednesday – none of which included new regulations – to address these and other concerns. Some anglers in the audience were disappointed that a more hard-line approach wasn’t being considered to segregate uses on the river, similar to the way motorized and non-motorized activities are segregated on Rabbit Ears Pass.

At their meeting Monday, members of the Yampa Valley Fly Fishers unanimously adopted a position statement expressing support for the Yampa River Management Plan, concern that the city has not followed through on the plan’s recommendation and their belief that “indicators already exist to limit or prohibit tubing” above the Fifth Street Bridge. The Colorado Division of Wildlife suggested a similar prohibition at a commission meeting in February.

“If the citizens of Steamboat really respect the environment of the Yampa River, they’ll do that,” said Larry Freet, who said restricting tubing above the Fifth Street Bridge would make the upper stretch of the river more tranquil and be a boon to downtown businesses. “It’s a no-brainer to me.”

While some commissioners agreed the city has done a poor job following through on the river management plan, they said they were unwilling to try regulation first.

“My personal feeling is that the education effort needs to happen first,” Chairman Curtis Church said.

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Many also noted that there is no reliable data by which to gauge the problem. Scott Ford is heading up an effort to do counts and conduct surveys on river use this summer, to replace anecdotal observations that river use and conflicts are increasing.

“The difficulty is five years have passed with no baseline data,” said Ford, referring to the 2004 adoption of the river management plan.

The city has committed to step up efforts to discourage tubing above Fetcher Park, as called for in the management plan. The city also has committed to more strictly enforce existing laws and may deputize some employees so they can write parking tickets.

The city intends to rely heavily on volunteers to educate river users at access points about rules, regulations and etiquette on the river. Many said Wednesday that it was foolhardy to expect enough volunteers to come forward to make a difference.

“I think effective law enforcement is necessary,” said Michael Turner, who said appropriately priced fines would cover the cost of increased enforcement and truly discourage illegal behavior.

Chris Wilson, city director of Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services, said additional regulations are still a possibility in the future.

“You may believe it won’t work,” Wilson said, “but let’s give it a try.”

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

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For more information about Yampa River use or to volunteer to educate recreational users about river regulations and etiquette, call the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department at 879-4300.