TAKE ACTION: Comment on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area Management Plan
ARKANSAS RIVER, Colo. - The Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) is revising their Management Plan for the first time since 2001. The AHRA’s Management Plan governs the operation and management of the 152 mile Arkansas River corridor from Leadville to Lake Pueblo, including the nation’s most popular rafting destinations, such as The Numbers, Browns Canyon, The Royal Gorge, and 3 different whitewater parks. The new Draft Plan was made publicly available in October and the AHRA is accepting public comments through November 10, 2017 (next week!).
The AHRA’s Management Plan governs many different aspects of the Arkansas River corridor, including recreation facilities and river access sites, commercial launch windows and outfitter permits, and the regulation of boating capacities - all of which could change in the 2018 Management Plan. The new Draft Plan and Environmental Assessment presents 4 different alternatives (i.e., management options):
- The No Action Alternative would revert to the 2001 Management Plan, without making any changes.
- Alternative 1 proposes to significantly decrease private boating capacities in Segment 1 (Leadville to Buena Vista), while making modest site improvements and new developments.
- Alternative 2 and the Proposed Action are nearly identical save for some slight differences in boating capacities and use-season dates. Both Alternative 2 and the Proposed Action moderately decrease private boating capacities in Segment 1, while proposing significant site improvements, and new developments and land acquisitions throughout the river corridor.
All action alternatives include language to regulate boating capacities through user education, a voluntary online registration system, and a potential day-use permitting system.
In order to design effective and productive comments, American Whitewater has thoroughly reviewed the Draft Plan, discussed the Plan with our local Affiliate Clubs, attended AHRA Public Open Houses, and reached out to key members of the local paddling community. To make it easy for you to SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS, American Whitewater staff have compiled our key concerns and comments for your review (see below). You can simply copy and paste them into the appropriate submission windows, however, we highly encourage you to take the time to review the Draft Plan and Environmental Assessment yourself; in particular, Table 2-7 (pp. 2-22 to 2-32), Table 2-8 (p. 2-35), Table 2-9 (p. 2-36), and Section 126.96.36.199.1 (p. 2-39) which summarize the site acquisition and development, boating capacities, use seasons, and the implementation process for a potential permitting system.
There will also be an opportunity to submit comments at Colorado Whitewater’s Fall Dinner on November 7 in Golden, Colorado. Rob White, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Manager, will be at the dinner and there will be opportunities to ask Rob questions and submit your comments directly at the event. You can get your tickets HERE for just $25 for CW members and $30 for non-members. The event includes dinner from Bonfire Burritos, beer provided by Good River Beer, and special attendance by river guide and author, Tom Martin.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the AHRA and their Draft Plan, you can contact Leslie Tyson or Mark Robbins, both of whom have been representing private boaters in the AHRA’s Citizen Task Force for the past 10 years.
Leslie Tyson: 303-477-3861; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Robbins: 970-420-3901; email@example.com
Comments by section:
- Section 1d: Granite to Numbers Strongly support the rehabilitation of the Granite Diversion Structure and installation of a boat chute and fish ladder, as outlined in the Proposed Action. Strongly discourage the implementation of the reduced private boating capacities outlined in Alternative 1 for Section 1d. A 150 boats per day capacity in this section for private boaters is inadequate to support the number of private boaters that enjoy this section of the Arkansas River during the paddling season, and we believe that the river is capable of supporting a larger capacity. Furthermore, it is recommended that the AHRA conduct additional research on boating capacities before reducing the private boating capacities from 350 to 250 (as outlined in the Proposed Action).
- Section 1e: Numbers to Railroad Bridge Support the development of a new private boating access and campground facility at the Arkansas Placer Property (i.e., Green Gate) and an additional vault toilet and campground in this section as necessitated by demand and environmental impact. However, one of these campgrounds should be managed as a free, dispersed camping area or an additional free, dispersed camping area should be developed in order to maintain a diversity of camping experiences. Strongly discourage the implementation of the reduced private boating capacities outlined in Alternative 1 for Section 1e. A 150 boats per day capacity in this section for private boaters is inadequate to support the number of private boaters that enjoy this section of the Arkansas River during the paddling season, and we believe that the river is capable of supporting a larger capacity. Furthermore, it is recommended that the AHRA conduct additional research on boating capacities before reducing the private boating capacities from 320 to 250 (as outlined in the Proposed Action).
- Section 1f: Railroad Bridge to Buena Vista Boat Ramp Support the installment of a vault toilet and designated campsites at Elephant Rock, as outlined in the Proposed Action, while maintaining it as a free campground, if possible.
- Section 2a: Buena Vista Boat Ramp to Fisherman’s Bridge Support further development of the BV Whitewater Park area, as outlined in the Proposed Action, in order to maintain and improve the visitor and boater experience.
- Section 2b: Fisherman’s Bridge to Stone Bridge Recommendation to increase private boating capacities in Section 2b to be equal to or greater than commercial capacities. Generally support the Proposed Action to increase both management and development of Browns Canyon. However, we strongly discourage CPW from implementing a fee-based reservation system for camping unless absolutely necessary to protect the environment and the user experience from degradation.
- Section 2d: Big Bend to Salida East Support the management actions outlined in the Proposed Action, especially the development of an additional boat ramp on river left in Salida and the acquisition of Union Pacific land in Salida to improve river access.
- Section 3a: Salida East to Rincon Recommendation to increase private boating capacities in Section 3a in order to ensure that there is adequate opportunities for beginner boaters; maintain boating capacities for canoe and kayak instruction, and reduce capacities for commercial rafting if necessary.
- Section 4b: Texas Creek to Parkdale Support the Proposed Action for Section 4b, especially to provide additional river access at 5 Points.
- Segment 5: Parkdale to Cañon City Support all of the actions outlined in the proposed alternative, especially the rehabilitation and installment of boat chutes in all existing dams and diversions.
- - Recommendation to include an additional clause to the “Safe Boating Experience” provision on Pg. 2-38 of the Draft Plan, acknowledging Colorado Statute, C.R.S. § 33-13-111, which excludes kayaks and whitewater canoes from river closures except under certain circumstances.
- - Strongly encourage CPW staff to change the language on pg. 2-39 to read "...enable private boaters to register their trips online...", instead of, "...require all private boaters to register their trips online...". Furthermore, in order for the voluntary registration system to be successful, we encourage CPW staff to consider implementing a sign-in sheet at various river access sites, rather than using an online registration system. An online system would be limiting to those who are camping or making last minute trip plans.
- - In regard to permitting, regulation, and access for commercial outfitters, give priority consideration to instructional boating in order to promote river education and responsible river use. For example, secure additional river access for Class 2 sections that are open to instructional use and pursue acquisition of additional flatwater areas for private and commercial boating and instruction. Additionally, Ruby Mountain or an alternate Class 2 access site could be made available to instructional boating use in order to expand important instruction opportunities for beginners.
- - Overall, support the acquisition and development of new lands to improve open space and boating opportunities within the Arkansas River corridor.
- - Overall, support the development and improvement of facilities in the Arkansas corridor to improve the boating experience and recreational opportunities, while maintaining an appropriate balance of primitive and developed areas.
- - Strong opposition to the implementation of a fee-based registration or permitting system for private boaters on the Arkansas River. Based on historical and present river use, we believe that a permitting system is unnecessary and will negatively impact tourism throughout the river corridor. We strongly advocate for the following adjustments to the Draft Plan regarding the regulation of boating capacities:
- - On pg. 2-39, replace - “Given population growth estimates over the life of this plan, it is possible and perhaps even likely that a fee based registration and/or private boat permit system may need to be implemented.” - with more permissive language, indicating that taking measures to avoid a permitting system is a priority and that CPW does not aim to implement a permitting system for private boaters unless absolutely necessary.
- - In response to the language on pg. 2-39, we strongly suggest that the triggering of the registration system and the permitting system should be a multi-year process, excluding the possibility of enacting either system in the first year that capacities are exceeded; the registration system should only be implemented if capacities exceed 75% more than 5 days in a season in 2 consecutive years (or 2 out of 3 years) and the permitting system should only be implemented if capacities exceed 100% more than 5 days in a season in 2 consecutive years (or 2 out of 3 years).
Colorado's Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River is a Mecca for outdoor recreation, and the nations most popular whitewater paddling destination.
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