Friday, February 12, 2010

Take Action-Protect Your Right to Float in Colorado!

Take Action-Protect Your Right to Float in Colorado!
-posted February 11, 2010 by Nathan Fey to the AW website

American Whitewater asks that you Contact Colorado's State Legislators and Urge them to Add Private Boaters to the "River Outfitter Bill".
The Colorado Legislature is considering a bill (House Bill 1188 or the "River Outfitters Bill"), which helps protect the rights of commercial boaters to float on commercial sections of river, and also increases the safety of boaters by decriminalizing incidental contact with land to portage obstacles.

HB-1188 is a good bill, but doesn't go far enough! Navigation and safety should include ALL boaters on EVERY river.

Whether you are a Colorado Resident, or someone who travels to Colorado to hit the peak paddling season each year, we need your help to ensure all boaters have safe access on all Colorado rivers. The state House of Representatives is going to debate and vote on HB-1188 Thursday February 11th and likely Friday, February 12th.

We need your calls TODAY!

American Whitewater is asking our members to help protect our right to float. Here are three things you can do:

1. Call or email your state legislators today and urge them to add private boaters to HB-1188. River access should be for all of the public on all rivers. (Info about how to do this below)
2. Pass this information along to other boaters - send to other lists, post on boating forums, talk to your friends. Help keep the boating community informed.
3. Stay tuned! American Whitewater and Colorado Whitewater are working to amend the bill to include private boaters as it works its way through the legislative process.

For more information, you can go to www.americanwhitewater.org

You can follow the progress of the bill AND listen to debate through the Colorado General Assembly website.

How to contact your state Senator and Representative:

Find out who your elected officials are at www.votesmart.org.
Reach the Senate offices at 866-2316, and the House offices at 866-2904; ask for your elected official.
You can find email, direct phone number, and mailing address for your elected officials at the Colorado General Assembly website: www.leg.state.co.us.


Here is a sample letter/email that you can edit or use as a script for your call.

PLEASE CALL or EMAIL TODAY!!

SAMPLE EMAIL/LETTER

Representative or Senator __________:

I write this letter as an individual who recreates on rivers and streams in Colorado. These waters provide a diverse array of recreational opportunities that are enjoyed by millions of Americans and local families like mine who enjoy rafting, kayaking, and canoeing. In the U.S., 24 Million Americans enjoy paddling. Here at home, 11% of Colorado residents over 18 years old - nearly 400,000 individuals - enjoy these activities

Our state's rivers and streams play a vital role in the everyday lives of our communities. In many parts of Colorado they are the centerpieces of our cities and towns, and safe public access to our waterways is critical to maintaining our recreation-based economy and quality of life.

House Bill 10-1188 is now before the Colorado Legislature. This legislation clarifies that a river guide employed by a licensed river outfitter and the guide's passengers may float on waterways that have historically been used for commercial float trips without committing civil trespass, and may make incidental contact with the bed or banks of a river solely to portage around dangerous hazards and proceed downstream without fear of criminal prosecution. Thus, the bill promotes recreational activities on the one hand and prevents paddlers from having to face life and death hazards on the other.

But House Bill 10-1188 fails to provide these same protections to private boaters on these commercially rafted stretches of river. Private boaters, too, must be able to portage around such dangerous hazards. They, too, should be able to float downstream and enjoy Colorado's recreational resources without fear of civil litigation or criminal charges should incidental contact with the beds or banks of a river be necessary to safely navigate a waterway. The bill explicitly states that it is designed to safeguard the public's health, safety, and welfare, but its limited scope fails to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of private boaters.

As a constituent, I respectfully but strongly urge you to include all boaters within the scope of HB-1188 and enact it into law.

Thank you for considering the comments of recreation enthusiasts like myself as you consider this important legislation.

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