This article was in today's Denver Post and details another attempt to allow private landowners to control boating past their property. This happened a year or two ago and it looks like they're at it again (Thanks to Marshall Nichols for passing this on to me).
If this gets to the legislature, we're going to need to work together with the outfitters to fight this.
River enthusiasts on alert in wake of latest proposal
Denver Post Outdoor Editor
Tuesday, February 03, 2004 -
Toss another log on a river-access fire that's certain to grow hotter by the month.
The most recent flare-up in a conflagration that pits recreationists against property owners in a battle neither fully can win comes from Club 20, the promotional organization that represents the commercial interests of Western Slope counties.
Why this Grand Junction-based promotional organization chose this moment - or any other - to poke its nose into the fray can only be imagined. But here it is, warts and all, with its name attached to a draft resolution that includes such fighting language as:
* Float fishing can be prohibited at the property owner's discretion by adequately noticing such prohibition.
* Access shall be limited only to floating craft that are licensed through the state and, as such, are easily identified with an easily readable and unique registration number. All funds generated from such license fees shall be dedicated to the purpose of administering and enforcing laws and regulations associated with river rafting access.
* Licensed commercial rafters who observe violations by others and do not report such violations will lose their own licenses.
This draft issued Jan. 9 by Club 20's Tourism Committee (of all things) served to raise the oars of anyone whose loves and livelihood revolve around river access. This includes the Colorado River Outfitters Association, which two years ago contributed an estimated $125 million to the state's economy, much of it in those counties that belong to the Club. Go figure.
The right-to-float issue has simmered for years as Colorado's most emotional outdoor issue, drifting in and out of court amid a confusion of laws and administrative rulings that settled nothing and satisfied virtually no one.
Unlike neighboring states, Colorado somehow never resolved its legal issues, leaving an uneasy truce under which floating generally proceeded as usual. Apart from an occasional brush fire that typically was doused quickly by bystanders who feared real conflagration, floating continued under a precept by which moving water served as a highway for boats, while bank and bottom remained with the landowner.
Now comes this Club 20 initiative to bring fresh focus on a matter that oozes all the passions involved in the public's access to something as universal as a river and in the rights of personal property.
Club 20's adventure took a slightly different turn at a Saturday meeting of its Agriculture Committee, when the dialogue became channeled into a nine-person panel representing all three arms of the Club. The task presumably is to refine the group's final position on the matter.
Meanwhile, this initial language served to put floating and fishing enthusiasts on alert, increasing their resolve toward an ultimate referred amendment ballot showdown.
"We have invested money in working on a ballot initiative. We'll need the support of every rafter, every angler when we decided to make it go," said Tom Kleinschnitz, owner of Adventure Bound rafting company in Grand Junction, who attended the Saturday meeting.
Meanwhile, Russ George, newly anointed executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, is poised to re-establish a working group of all river interests under the DNR banner.
Such a group previously existed under the name River Surface Forum until late 2002, when property interests broke the truce in a failed effort to sneak a bill through the tag-end of the General Assembly.
"We need to re-form an entity to bring these very polarized interests back and try again," said George, who believes the best solution rests with the legislature rather than the courts. "I like to meet at the conference table to see if we can work things out. Then we can go to the legislature with a higher probability of success."
Generally, recreationists mistrust any solution by a conservative legislature traditionally stacked in favor of agricultural and property.
"It would be less expensive for everyone if we could make that (the legislative solution) work," Kleinschnitz acknowledged.
But, like most of his fleet, the white-water enthusiast didn't sound optimistic.
"We're working on the legal end of things, crafting the language," Kleinschnitz said.
Let the water fight begin again.
End of Denver Post Article