Soren Jespersen: Let’s keep our river safe
Ten years ago, Friends of the Yampa participated in a process with the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado Division of Wildlife, a citizens advisory committee and numerous other stakeholders to create the Yampa River Management Plan.
This plan, finalized in 2003 and approved by City Council in 2004, laid out a forward-thinking framework for future policy recommendations and projects that would help us sustain the river that provides so much to our economy and way of life in the Yampa Valley. But 10 years have gone by, and it’s time to give the plan a modern update.
That Yampa River Management Plan has largely been a success. In the last 10 years we’ve improved river access points, stabilized eroding banks, improved fish habitat, minimized conflicts between fishermen and floaters, created new play features and obtained a recreational in-stream water right to protect the flows.
But the intervening 10 years have also revealed some issues. For one, we’ve been so successful that the Yampa River is now more crowded than ever. All river-related recreational activities have seen increases in total numbers over the last decade.
Parking at popular put-ins during July and August can be a nightmare, with cars spilling onto city streets and into no-parking zones. Floaters during the months of July and August are putting added stresses on our public transportation system and city parks.
The lack of a dedicated river take-out for tubes but also for rafts and other trailered boats has led to increased trespass on private property, conflicts with the Yampa River Core Trail and added pressures on the Bud Werner Library and Stock Bridge Transit Center. And, of course, there’s the trash that is inadvertently lost in the current, left behind at take-outs or is washed into the river through storm drains or off of city streets.
Thankfully, the city of Steamboat Springs and the Parks and Recreation Commission have recognized that the Yampa River could again use some help. At a busy meeting Jan. 28, numerous stakeholders presented their ideas to the commission on how to do this.
Some comments focused on the crowds, suggesting new impact fees be installed to limit use levels or fund a river enforcement officer. One person suggested an evening curfew to keep floaters off the river during the prime fishing hours of late evening.
Others focused on the trash and argued that the city and local businesses should be a more active partner by rededicating the 5 percent collected on commercial river activities back into river clean-ups and other education efforts led by Friends of the Yampa and others.
The fact is there is no single solution. A river ranger will not have much impact on the parking situation or on the inevitable trash. New river fees will do little to solve the trespassing issues or the added pressure on the library or city bus system. And a curfew, well, good luck with that one.
As we did 10 years ago, we need to come together to revamp the Yampa River Management Plan. It doesn’t need to be completely rewritten, just updated in places to ensure that it is meeting its intended purpose.
Friends of the Yampa is glad to see our city leaders take more interest in ensuring the Yampa River remains a key focal point of our town’s economy for years to come. We encourage all Steamboaters who care about how the Yampa is managed to come to the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting on March 11 or to any upcoming City Council meeting to share your opinions on what needs to be done to improve stewardship of our amazing Yampa River.
Friends of the Yampa, Board President
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