Colorado property owners reach truce with rafters
associated press writer
DENVER – Property owners have declared a temporary truce in a dispute with commercial rafters and will allow rafting on their property this summer.
Jackson-Shaw, the company that owns the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve, said Friday it will grant the two Taylor River rafting companies, Three Rivers Outfitting and Scenic River Tours, permission to float through its property this summer.
Conflicts between fishermen and commercial rafting on the Taylor River gave rise earlier this year to Colorado House Bill 1188, which died at the end of the legislative session this week.
Lewis Shaw, chairman of the company, said it will take time to work out a permanent agreement and he wanted to give rafters a chance to begin their season.
“While mediation between Jackson-Shaw and the two Taylor River rafting companies continues, Jackson-Shaw recognizes that Three Rivers and Scenic are at the threshold of their commercial rafting season and that it will take time to finalize any formal agreement. Accordingly, as a show of good faith, Jackson-Shaw has decided to give Three Rivers and Scenic permission to float through Wilder on the Taylor this summer,” Shaw said.
Bob Hamel, chairman of the Colorado River Outfitters Association, said it was a nice gesture but rafters believe they don’t need Shaw’s permission to raft the river. Rafting companies were already going ahead with their new season, he said.
“Jackson-Shaw is not entitled to grant permission. The permission is in the Forest Service permit. I think this is premature because we’re still in negotiations,” Hamel said.
Mediation between the two rafting companies and Jackson-Shaw began on April 22 and remains ongoing. Both sides have agreed to keep the details of their negotiations secret.
Shaw imposed several conditions, including limits on rafting between May 15 and Aug. 15 if there is sufficient water. The companies will be allowed four trips each day between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. so fishermen can also enjoy their sport. Rafters will be allowed on the property to carry their rafts across a bridge.
After the bill died, both sides said they would take their case to voters and more than two dozen initiative petitions are pending.
Rep. Kathleen Curry, an unaffiliated state representative from Gunnison, said she believes voters will side with rafters, who have exercised their rights to use Colorado rivers for decades and have become a symbol of Colorado’s outdoor life.
Eric Anderson, who represents a coalition of property owners, including fishermen who barred rafting this year on their property, said he believes fishermen will win in the court of public opinion because their property rights are being threatened.
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