Steamboat City Council to move forward on tube fee, disposable container ban on Yampa River |

Steamboat City Council to move forward on tube fee, disposable container ban on Yampa River

Willows, cottonwoods and a bright assortment of shrubs and other vegetation have donned their fall-colored leaves along the Yampa River.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council is moving forward on an ordinance implementing a $5 fee on tubes purchased at local sporting goods stores and banning disposable containers when floating on recreational tubes, rafts and paddle boards.

The recreational tube fee will be used to fund river education, enhancements, cleanups and a river ranger program as funding allows.

“The amount of trash and debris that is pulled from the Yampa River is overwhelming,” said Angela Cosby, Steamboat Parks and Recreation director. “Tubes lay all over the ground from people leaving them after their trips.”

Council members and staff have discussed the measure for more than a year, with the parks and recreation commission collecting data from seven similar river recreation-oriented communities, said Craig Robinson, Steamboat Parks, Trails and Open Spaces manager.

The disposable container ban would apply to all river corridors within city limits and to people accessing the river from city land.

“This effort is consistent with the council’s vision to preserve our past while assuring an economically, culturally and environmentally sustainable future,” Robinson wrote in a report to the city.

While all council members supported a fee for tubes used on the river, some felt the fee should be greater than the proposed $5.

“I think this is a great first step, but I think it should be a higher user fee to generate more revenue for what we have to pay for as far as rangers and support and education,” said council member Robin Crossan. “If the fee is higher, maybe some of those folks would go through the outfitters where there’s more control.”

Council member Kathi Meyer said she worried if Steamboat imposed too high a fee on tubes, those visiting from out of town would be less inclined to buy a tube in city limits.

“If people know they have to spend an extra $10 to buy a $30 tube, they’re going to go to Denver, buy it there and bring it up here,” Meyer said. “I want to start low, and we can always go higher.”

While the fee is specifically intended for tubes being used on the Yampa River, council members in previous meetings expressed concern over imposing a fee to use elsewhere.

“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.

Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Cory Christensen said a ban would be difficult to enforce, as it would essentially require officers to be stationed along the river, but he hopes people will follow the measure on their own.

“Eighty percent of the people in the world follow the rules and 20% don’t,” Christensen said. “But we hope that most people will do this.”

The fee imposed by the ordinance is for services including river education, enhancements and clean up. Similar to the city’s plastic bag fee, it is not a tax and therefore does not require voter approval, Robinson said.

“Every summer we see this impacts that hit the river in a really poor fashion,” said Council President Jason Lacy. “This is a priority.”

Council will have to vote again on a second reading before the measure can be enacted.

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