I don't know the details of what's happening in Durango and just skimmed the article - if I'm missing something here, correct me if I'm wrong. From what I read, the Town considering a fee of one whole dollar per person for the outfitter and fishing guide passengers to improve access facilities and do bank stabilization. Not sure how this is a power grab, it just sounds like they're trying to improve river facilities for the 35,000 to 40,000 people going down the river each season on the outfitter trips. Likely the private boaters will benefit from the improvements too.
I hear lots of people that complain about taxes say their biggest beef is that they don't use the services being provided but pay for them anyway. Do you propose the Town take the money for improvements and bank stabilization out of the town's general budget so people who don't use the river pay for it?
A $1 a person for commercial passengers is not going to limit anybody from access but it could provide huge benefit to access and rehabilitation in the long run. Most of our rivers, ramps and riparian areas are in less than ideal shape so I am all for user fees to help maintain the places we use.
Agreed with the contributor in the article who stated the fee should be more broad-based; they should charge tubers and SUPers just like rafters and fisherman.
As Andy stated, $1 per commercial custy is a small sum, to be used for the benefit of all river users.
However, there are many thousands of examples throughout the country, of public resources in which the creation of even the smallest fee-based administrative/regulatory structure has devolved into a much more restrictive environment which fuels the beauracratic "vicious cycle".
Inevitably, the initial fee is used for some "public amenity", and the development of more amenities and upgrades is proposed (to justify the existence and growth of the administrative agency). The agency uses the precedent of existing user-fees as justification of additional fees to finance new programs. This cycle continues, followed shortly by more formal permitting, additional enforcement/rangers, etc, which require additional funding through user-fees.
This can truly be a slippery slope. I have indeed seen it many times.
There has been a vast change in the demographics of boaters in general and Durango in particular. In 1985 there were a few companies making a decent living. now there's a dozen companies in town and tourist numbers haven't changed that much. At that time very few private boaters owned their own rafts. Now it seems there are far more private boaters than outfitter's rafts on the river in the spring and early summer. The 32nd st. put-in at the top of Durango is a circus when the water is high and weather is good. Outfitters on a schedule are fighting for space with every type of otherwise non-professional boater type in a very confined space at this put in. If the outfitters are going to bear the brunt of this legislation then I believe they should be allowed put in times or an exclusive put-in. alternatively the $500.00 outfitter fee the city imposes on the outfitters may well be increased to a higher price per year. This could be a known price that a business could then include when making their yearly budget assessment for the following spring. When gas prices went though the roof we started charging a one dollar fee per person for a fuel charge because we couldn't change the brochures trip costs in time to coincide with the unforseen change in the huge jump in fuel costs that one year. The customers were very gracious and dealt with the fee pretty easily. usually it was just a few dollars more per family. . How the city is supposed to enforce the actual numbers that are being run down the river by each outfitter is beyond me. This would all be on the honor system for each business as there is no ranger in Durango or enforcement of any kind as it is basically an unregulated free-for-all. the whole idea is ridiculous. The Colorado State Parks might share their numbers with the city (?) but Bureacracies rarely work well together. There have been private entities like the Colorado Mounted Rangers in belly boats trying to regulate the open alcohol consumption on the river and that failed miserably. They had to be rescued by the people they were trying to regulate!
The city has been doing a great job with the parks and improving put-ins and take-outs and the play-park. If they really want to regulate, they need to put a moratorium on the number of outfitters in town. This in turn would create an environment where those Businesses would become more profitable and more agreeable to higher costs incurred on their outfitter fees as their business is better protected.
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