Scanlan: Preserving Colorado’s ‘right to float’ |

Scanlan: Preserving Colorado’s ‘right to float’

by Rep. Christine Scanlan

I voted “Yes” in support of an important bill Feb. 16, and I want to explain why.

One of Colorado’s most popular recreational activities faces a serious threat. Annually, commercial river running contributes over $142 million to Colorado’s economy, and more than 500,000 people enjoy our scenic rivers.

Yet the ability to provide commercial river running is in danger because out-of-state landowners want to prohibit licensed outfitters from providing river trips.

Whitewater rafters and property owners have debated for decades over the right to float through private property in Colorado; current law is unclear regarding the ability of commercial outfitters to float through private property.

Recently, private landowners new to the state have attempted to prohibit rafting companies from floating by on rivers that been rafted for decades. Commercial outfitters, the guides they employ, and the local economies that they support are now at risk.

That’s why I voted in support of House Bill 1188, the River Outfitters Viability Act. This bill establishes that licensed outfitters, floating on historically commercially floated rivers, cannot be charged with civil trespass if they make accidental contact with the river’s bed or banks, or if they have to briefly portage around a hazard in the water.

The bill clearly protects landowners from liability if a rafter is injured while passing through their property, and it does not change the ability of landowners to construct facilities on their properties. River guides are held liable for any damage they might do to property.

We can’t afford to lose the tourism dollars that whitewater rafting brings in to our counties or to the entire state. Locals and visitors alike take advantage of our beautiful rivers every day, and Coloradans are able to enjoy the tourism dollars that come in for recreational purposes.

House Bill 1188 was carefully crafted to find a middle ground which protects the property rights of landowners while ensuring the viability of the rafting companies, many of which are small businesses owned and operated by our friends and neighbors. The bill passed 40-25 on a bipartisan vote, including the Republican Minority Leader Mike May voting in favor.

With this legislation, I hope we can reconcile and fairly accommodate the rights of all Coloradans concerned with this issue and encourage a new era of cooperation.

Christine Scanlan is State Representative for Colorado House District 56, which includes Summit County.

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