Rafting rift settlement leaves questions about the ‘right to float’

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From the Associated Press via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Colorado’s governor on Tuesday announced that a group of river rafters and a real estate developer who didn’t want paddlers floating by his property reached a four-year agreement…

The developer’s move [to close a certain reach of the Taylor River] prompted an intense debate over who owns riverways in Colorado, where tourists flock in summers to ride some of the West’s best freshwater rapids. The developer said that rafting trips would disturb a fishing preserve…

A state lawmaker from Gunnison tried and failed to protect rafting rights in a bill considered last session. After the bill failed, both sides vowed to seek ballot initiatives to put the question to voters, and 24 separate questions have been proposed. The four-year agreement announced Tuesday calls for both sides to agree to recall those proposals. Ritter hailed the decision to withdraw the flurry of ballot proposals “courageous.”

However, the “right to float” question isn’t settled. The agreement applies only to the stretch of the Taylor River in dispute, leaving unanswered the question of whether property owners with public rivers on their land can prevent paddlers, even if the rafters don’t stop on privately owned banks. “I do believe it needs to be addressed,” [Matt Brown, an owner of Scenic River Tours] said of permanent floating rights…

Ritter said he’s set up a panel of landowners, commercial and recreational river users and even police to propose a statewide procedure for settling river disputes. The report is due by the end of the year, in time for lawmakers to consider permanent rafting rules next session.

More whitewater coverage here.

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