River issue is not tubes, but enforcement

The story about banning tubing from Oxbow (Herald, Nov. 25) misses the point. This is not a classist, socioeconomic fight. As a practical matter, most people in a craft without a paddle – particularly if drinking alcohol – have difficulty holding their bladders for as long as it takes to travel between Oxbow and 33rd Street, which basically ensures trespassing on the private beaches and river banks.

But using a paddle on a tube causes tubers to spin in circles and prevents effective navigation with a paddle.

A “paddle-only” zone above 33rd Street makes sense on this stretch of serene water with its abundance of wildlife. Today’s tubers will be tomorrow’s mini-raft users, as a variety of one- and two-person mini-rafts with paddles are available at big-box stores and online from $13 to $25.

The greater issue is on-river enforcement.

In the past, tubers have accounted for the lion’s share of the increasingly disruptive Bourbon Street-style conduct largely fueled by alcohol, such as frequent party barges with loud music, littering, trespassing, yelling at and confrontations with homeowners, and dogs running loose on the shore following the watercraft downriver. As word has spread among younger users that this is an area where they can party hard without consequence, the volume of river traffic has jumped markedly each year during the last three years. Most river users above 33rd Street do trespass on the entirely private-property riverbanks and beaches between Oxbow and 33rd Street, with the mistaken or careless mindset that it is OK to use any beach. Trespassers routinely ignore or destroy “no trespassing” signage.

Alcohol, trespassing, noise and loose dogs are problems that can be effectively managed only by on-river law enforcement, which is used on other high-use rivers. The modest cost of a full-time officer in an inflatable kayak for three summer months could be covered by a 50-cent fee on each commercial river customer or simply included in the city budget. The cost is greater not to have on-river enforcement and permit the current summer behavior to get more and more outrageous every year.

Tim LaFrance

Durango

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