Landowner will allow rafting through property after bill sinks

The company that prompted one of the more hotly contested bills of the legislative session – House Bill 1188 dealing with commercial river rafting – announced Friday it would allow two outfitters to float the Taylor River through its property this summer.

Officials for Jackson-Shaw, owner of the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve, said they will continue mediation efforts with Three Rivers Outfitting and Scenic River Tours while allowing the two companies to continue navigating the river through the private property.

Independent state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a former Democrat from Gunnison, introduced the rafting-rights bill this session after Jackson-Shaw shut down boating through the property last summer. HB 1188, which would have allowed commercial boaters to land on private property in emergency situations, died earlier this week in the waning days of the session.

Rafters say a 1979 Colorado Supreme Court ruling gives them the right to float rivers crossing private land, but some landowners have interpreted it to mean their property rights extend out into the river. Curry’s bill sought to clarify the confusion.

Jackson-Shaw won’t allow rafters to fish the Taylor through the preserve, but they can portage a bridge (go around on land) as long they are “respectful” of the property, and the boaters must also limit the number of trips and stick to certain times and dates.

“We believe that these rules are reasonable and will allow the rafting companies to meet demand, operate profitable businesses, and conduct far more commercial trips through the property this summer than last summer,” Jackson-Shaw Chairman and CEO Lewis Shaw said in a release.

Gov. Bill Ritter Thursday said he will work with landowner groups and the commercial rafting industry to resolve differences and avoid a looming ballot measure on the contentious issue.

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