City council to continue discussions on tube fees, education on the Yampa River
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council decided at its meeting last week to continue discussions on implementing a $5 fee on tubes purchased at local sporting goods stores, with the purpose of keeping the Yampa River free from popped and littered tubes, as well as funding river safety and education programs.
The fee has been a subject of discussion for more than a year after the City Council tasked the Parks and Recreation Commission with researching ways to keep the river cleaner, and Angela Cosby, Parks and Recreation director, said old tubes are one of the largest sources of litter the river faces.
“The amount of trash and debris that is pulled from the Yampa is overwhelming,” she said in an interview Monday. “Tubes lay all over the ground from people leaving them after their trips.”
Cosby added the fee is similar to the paper bag fee implemented in 2019, with the concept being to discourage use of single-use bags while also providing funding to help the city perform cleanups and provide education.
“If you have a quality tube at home and you’re not going to litter the river with it, it helps in all of the environmental aspects,” she said.
Some members of the council suggested the fee be more than $5 as to deter people from using inflatable tubes altogether and encourage them to float with an outfitter instead.
“How do we make the fee be substantial enough that they say, ‘No, let’s just go through the outfitter?’” council member Robin Crossan asked. “I’d like to see something where the fee is higher than $5; I don’t think that’s enough.”
Other members said the $5 was a good starting point, and the amount could be increased if it was not enough to make an impact.
“I think we would see where it goes and what kind of money it raises,” said Council President Jason Lacy.
While the fee is specifically intended for tubes being used on the Yampa River, other council members expressed concern over imposing a fee on people buying tubes for other purposes.
“I just don’t want to be imposing a fee on people that aren’t using it for that purpose,” said council member Lisel Petis.
The fee was inspired by a program implemented in New Braunfels, Texas, a city of about 80,000 people near San Antonio. In 2016, that city implemented a $2 recreation fee for floating their rivers and saw a dramatic reduction in trash pollution, which Cosby said is the ultimate goal of implementing this fee.
“We still want our locals and visitors to enjoy the Yampa and to recreate, but we want it done in a safe and environmentally-friendly way,” she said.
In addition to implementing a fee on inflatable tubes, the council also discussed banning single-use plastic, aluminum and glass, which Cosby said is another large contributor of trash left in the river.
“I don’t think it’s going to be popular, but I do think this is probably one of the biggest sources of trash,” Petis said. “You don’t get nice things if you don’t treat them well.”
Council members also expressed concern of enforcing a ban, which Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Cory Christensen said may be difficult to enact, though he hopes river recreators will follow the rules on their own.
“There’s no possible way to effectively enforce this,” he said, “but 80% of the people in the world follow rules just to follow rules.”
Because these items were discussed in a work session, the city did not take any action but will discuss and vote on them in future meetings.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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