Proposed Lake Nighthorse recreation plan update

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From the Durango Telegraph (Leslie Swanson):

Smoothing out as many wrinkles as possible is the goal of Lake Nighthorse recreation planners. Public acceptance is, they say, a key component of the plan’s success. To that end, they have made participation in the decision-making process available through open houses, public forums, design workshops and a website where people can post comments and see everyone else’s as well. A review of public opinions expressed so far reveals that most people are willing to compromise on motors. Of all the comments received by DHM Design, the reservoir’s primary planning entity, 22 voted for no motors at all, 37 supported unrestricted motorized sports, and 38 were OK with some form of engine, as long as they are limited in horsepower, area and/or schedule. An electric-only restriction on motors was very popular among the latter group.

Joy Lujan, of the National Park Service, has been facilitating the public planning process. She explained that they are approaching a resolution by dealing with the individual components of anti-motor sentiments: primarily noise, pollution and wakes. By designating separate areas, restricting engine decibels, banning fueling stations and inspecting boats for invasive mussels, the lake’s planners believe that they can resolve anti-motor issues. The two ends of the sporting spectrum can4 peacefully co-exist, they claim, but no gas motors at all? That’s looking like a no-go.

Here is where the water gets choppy: With all the outreach and open access of the current planning process, one large and lasting decision appears to have been made with very little public input – construction of the boat ramp. Paid for by a Wallop-Breaux grant of $3 million from the State of Colorado, the ramp came with a contingency: it must allow use by gas-powered boats within three years of completion or the Bureau of Reclamation has to return the money. At a public forum last November, a bureau representative stated that repayment was not likely, in effect making motorized boating a done deal regardless of opposition. Such mandates tend to stir discontent and mistrust, and the boat ramp has caused significant local agitation.

Mark Chiarito, of the Bureau of Rec, expressed desire to resolve the confusion and offered the following explanation about the decision to construct the boat ramp: “In order to open the reservoir to public use in a timely manner, the Bureau of Reclamation and the State agreed on the need to solicit interest from other nonfederal entities to provide recreation at Lake Nighthorse. Hence, the current community planning process is being conducted and the boat ramp needs to be considered as a valid existing facility for inclusion in the recreation master plan.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

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