The Durango Parks and Recreation Department is proposing a new fee for commercial outfitters that could go into effect in 2015 or 2016.
Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz met with outfitters Wednesday about a proposed $1 fee the city may charge for each person they take down the river.
The fee could potentially raise $35,000 to $45,000 a year that would be designated for river improvements for the put-ins, river bank stabilization and other projects, Metz said.
If the new fee is approved, outfitters would still owe their annual permit fee. Commercial outfitters pay $550, nonprofit outfitters pay $200 and commercial fishing guides pay $300.
In the end, Metz agreed to ask city councilors Oct. 17 to delay the fee until 2016 to allow her department more time to make the fee structure fair. Ultimately, the City Council must approve the fee and the date of implementation.
Some outfitters supported the fee, with a few caveats because it would improve the river. Others felt the fee would contribute such a small percentage to the $6 million Parks and Rec budget it wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Some fee supporters asked for the fee to be delayed until 2016 because they already have printed promotional brochures with price information and felt a fee increase would make them choose between losing money on reprinting fliers or distributing incorrect information.
“I think the timing isn’t appropriate,” said David Moler, owner of Durango Rivertrippers & Adventure Tours.
Outfitters also asked the department to consider charging those renting tubes and paddle boards since those businesses are also driven by the Animas River.
Some business owners felt the fee is fundamentally unfair because private paddlers, not businesses, have the biggest impact on the river.
“The general public gets handed the white-kid gloves, and we get stomped on,” said Tom O’Keeffe, owner of Durango Rafting Co. in an interview.
However, Metz told the group she is not considering charging private users because it would be administratively difficult and unpopular in the community.