A record 24 ballot initiatives about rafting were filed March 26. State Representative Curry — the legislator responsible for introducing the original bill that sparked this debate — warned the private property people that this might happen. It’s not unusual in a state with Colorado’s history of citizen initiatives to see some action but I think everyone is surprised by the number.
There is strong public sentiment in favor of a right to float as there are strong private property feelings.
I wonder if the state legislature will pass something for a vote in November?
Here’s a report from The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels). From the article:
“We knew this was coming, but not 20 measures,” said Rep. Kathleen Curry, U-Gunnison, who sponsored the rafting bill. House Bill 1188, dubbed “Row vs. Wade” by House Republicans, would allow rafters to float through private property with incidental contact and not be accused of civil or criminal trespass…
Curry and others speculated that the river-rafting proposals might be pulled if some sort of compromise is reached. Outdoor enthusiasts said they filed their ballot proposals to ensure Colorado rivers stay open to the public. “We’re glad we did,” said Duke Bradford, spokesman for the Colorado River Outfitters…
But Eric Anderson, spokesman for the Creekside Coalition, said the group was formed in 1994 and represents farmers, ranchers, anglers and private landowners. “Until we’re assured that the commercial rafters’ one-sided proposals are not moving forward this year, we need to keep our options open to ensure that property rights in Colorado are protected,” he said…
Both sides say they will stand down and withdraw their initiatives if a solution can be reached in the legislature; however, both sides want what the other appears unwilling to give. Curry nonetheless has indicated she will press on to conference committee to try and strip a Senate amendment from her bill that required the issued to be studied for the next six months.
Now the process of collecting enough signatures from registered voters begins.
More coverage from Curtis Wackerle writing for the Aspen Daily News. From the article:
On Friday, the deadline for filing text that could potentially make it onto the November ballot, rafting proponents filed two separate initiatives. Both would secure the right to float and make incidental contact with private property on the river bank without fear of trespass. One specifically mentions float fishermen. The proposals, however, do not limit the right to historically run rivers just to commercial rafting companies, as Curry’s bill did.
Bob Hamel with the Colorado River Outfitters Association said that the legislative bill attempted compromise, but if they go to the ballot box, right-to-float advocates will be asking for everything they want. “We need the support” of all manner of boaters: commercial, private, whitewater and float fishermen, Hamel said.
Property rights groups filed 20 prospective ballot initiatives of their own on Friday, all with some variation of the theme that boaters cannot float through private property without the consent of the landowner. “The public has no right to use the waters overlaying private property for recreational purposes without the consent of the owner of the private property,” reads one version of the ballot question. Other initiatives filed by property rights groups explicitly state that river outfitters, not private landowners, are liable for any injury, death or damage that occurs while floating the river. A statement from a group called the Creekside Coalition paints the ballot initiatives as a counterplay to what it calls “a fundamental and far-reaching political assault on private property rights and the state’s agricultural heritage” by the rafting industry.
More Colorado November 2010 elections coverage here.