Dillon Reservoir: Bodysuit requirement lifted for paddleboarders
Ryan Summerlin October 4, 2012
Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee lifted restrictions on paddleboard users that previously called for a full bodysuit, replacing the requirement with a personal floatation device.
The victory for the paddleboarding community came Sept. 27 during the DRRec meeting with a unanimous decision. Representatives from Summit County government, Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service and the towns of Frisco and Dillon were present.
The attire requirement was met with contention this summer from some of those active in the paddleboard community, who say the sport is growing rapidly and suits pose potential danger to recreationalists who could overheat in summer temperatures.
DRRec hosted a public meeting Aug. 21 where many paddleboarding enthusiasts spoke during the public comment section sharing their opinions on the novelty of the sport.
Voting on the new regulations passed sooner than many had expected, but implementation of the new requirements will not go into effect until the spring or summer 2013, according to Brian Lorch, director of the Open Space and Trails Department for Summit County.
“The whole process was initiated by discussions with Denver Water who thought that regulations on paddleboarders could be relaxed,” he said. “The proposal was sent to DRRec and then there were three public meetings which involved several members of the paddleboarding community.”
Once the process started this summer, DRRec had to change the regulations made in 2008 to reflect the new resolution that would require paddleboarders to wear a personal floatation device, lifting the whole bodysuit requirement.
“The board ended up drafting the resolution around wearing a life jacket, because Denver Water would not have supported simply having a PFD on the boat,” Lorch said.
The major factor behind the committee’s decision involved the danger of recreating in the cold water temperatures in the reservoir.
The water-quality concerns held before are not as critical due to improvements in water treatment, though the temperature of the water is a cause for concern for inexperienced users of the reservoir, according to officials.
DRRec member Howard Scott raised the concern that the cold water temperatures lend to the possibility of those using a paddleboard to go into “cold shock,” which triggers a person to gasp for air and potentially drown.
“We need to consider all of the possibilities,” Scott said. “If we allow stand-up paddleboards then what is stopping an inflatable mattress from using the reservoir?”
The committee made clear that safety on the reservoir was the top priority.
“Dillon Reservoir is unique because we see a wide range of novice to expert users,” Scott said. “Regulations on paddleboards need to apply to all walks of life – we need to give regulations a lot of thought to make it as safe as possible on the water.”
With the adoption of the new regulations, Lorch said that efforts to educate the public would be prioritized.
“What our research found was that if the user fell into the water while wearing a PFD, they would survive – that’s what drove the decision more than anything,” he said. “With the new regulations, we plan on increasing our public outreach about the dangers of recreating on cold water.”
After DRRec met with the paddleboarding community in August, it began the process of amending the paddleboarding definition under current regulations defined by the Denver Water Board.
“We’ve been trying to get this figured out as soon as possible,” Lorch said. “We were modest about the time frame because we really didn’t know how long it would take to change the regulations. This decision was made as quickly and judiciously as possible. All of the parties involved really wanted to figure this out.”
The paddleboarding community’s apparent enthusiasm and desire to educate the committee urged the members of DRRec to update restrictions on the sport.
“The great thing about the stand-up paddleboard resolution is that it supports a growing recreational use and makes sure that everyone can enjoy the sport safely,” said Neil Sperandeo, from DRRec. “It was fun to get involved with the SUP folks. I enjoyed their passion and learned a lot.”