HB 10-1188: Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right

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Here’s the background story that led to Representative Curry’s bill, from Jessica Fender writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

A band of lawmakers has waded into the long-standing debate on whether rafters have the right to float through private property in an attempt to change ambiguous laws to favor rafters. Without legislative action, any one of the state’s 160 rafting companies could be the next sued out of business as stretches of river they once traveled are blocked off, said Mark Schumacher, who has run the Three Rivers Resort rafting operation on the Taylor since 1983. “Our fear is if they filed a civil trespass charge against us and win, it will set the precedent and any landowner on any river who doesn’t want people to float through (will follow),” Schumacher said. “The well- to-do, elite landowners are like Goliath. We’re like David.”[…]

[HB 10-1188] It’s scheduled for its first hearing Feb. 15, according to its sponsor, unaffiliated Rep. Kathleen Curry of Gunnison…

Lawyer John Hill represents Jackson-Shaw and said if the state legislates in favor of the rafters, they’ll have to pay landowners’ compensation for lost land value and business. “The public has no right to float through private property without the consent of the landowner,” Hill said. “That’s the law. You can’t change that without paying just compensation.”

The courts and the legislature decades ago decided and re-decided the right-to-float issue on the criminal side, and it’s not a crime to pass through private property on a river. But in the past three decades, there has been no such definitive answer for whether floaters can be sued for civil trespass if they float through private land…

Steve Roberts’ voice quivers with frustration as he talks about the land his family has operated — Harmel’s Ranch Resort — for more than a half century. It’s home to a fishing resort where he’s dropped more than $100,000 on river improvements to build up his stock on the three-quarters of a mile of the Taylor next to the Jackson-Shaw development. Roberts worked out a compromise with Schumacher, but the other nearby rafting crew floats big groups through his land twice a day, sometimes disrupting fish and upsetting Roberts’ clients, he said. “They’re splashing the water, going ‘whee!’ over the dams I created when I improved the fishing. They’ve hit the bridge with paddles,” Roberts said “So here I am, getting overrun with trespassers because trespassing is popular.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

One thought on “HB 10-1188: Clarify River Outfitter Navigation Right

  1. The rivers of the USA are federal waters! Everyone should have access! Private landowners can own the land but not the river! High water mark or just to the bank~! Set the rule and go make your drift or make money guiding but the river is for everyone not a landowner!!!! This will go federal of cours. If a landowner is changing the river to improve a money making opportunity: that is illegal in the federal system and it will go federal.
    God Bless and happy legislation.

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