BLM floats fee to ride river rapids

Floating down the Colorado River is a local tradition.

But if a Bureau of Land Management idea holds water, users of the Colorado River in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area could be paying fees by 2011. The fee could be $3 to $7, based on the fee river users already pay in the Kremmling area ($3) and in the Ruby Canyon area ($7).

“This is in the very preliminary stages, looking at whether a fee to float in that area of the river would be appropriate,” said David Boyd, spokesman for the BLM.

Implementation of the fee would not be immediate, if it is imposed at all. First, the citizen advisory council for the McInnis Canyons area would have to hear the proposal and give its OK for it to be explored. The BLM would then poll river users this summer. Public meetings would be hosted, and there would be a formal comment period.

If all went smoothly, the fee would take effect in 2011.

“But we are not there yet,” Boyd said. And it is debatable whether the BLM ever will get there.

Professional river rafter Tom Kleinschnitz, owner of Adventure Bound River Expeditions, 2392 H Road, has participated in past BLM Resource Advisory Council meetings where the topic of river fees bubbled up.

He said it always has been implied that the BLM eventually would have to do something in the area to control river use. Kleinschnitz is not so sure fees are the right answer.

“I don’t know what they intend to use the fee for. That is the core of the problem here,” Kleinschnitz said. “Many times users are picked on a bit with these fee schemes. ... They seem in my opinion to be very much abused in these situations.”

River users who enter the water at boat launches are easy targets for fees. For the McInnis Canyons area, this would be the Loma boat launch. But those who depart upstream or downstream can easily sidestep the fees, Kleinschnitz said.

He agrees McInnis Canyons and other spots along the Colorado are increasingly under pressure from public use, and something should be done to preserve the river’s natural wonders.

“Protecting these resources should be a priority of BLM, not just collecting these $3 to $5 fees,” Kleinschnitz said.

Others embrace the idea of a fee.

“I welcome it. I think it will give river rangers more resources and enable them to manage it better if they have resources in place,” said Travis Baier, owner of Rimrock Adventures, 927 Colorado Highway 340. “I think the main issue down there is camping reservations.”

Baier and Kleinschnitz referenced the camping reservation issue and the need to curtail camping along the river. Overnight throngs of people along the river do more damage than river rafters, they said.

Boyd said the fees, if ever implemented, would stay local.

“The idea is, as use increases, to continue to manage the facilities and maintain the area,” Boyd said.


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