State lawmakers still fighting about kayak parks |

State lawmakers still fighting about kayak parks

Daily file photo

Colorado lawmakers once again will grapple with the question of whitewater kayak parks during the upcoming legislative session.

The latest proposal no longer includes a cap on the amount of water that such parks can claim to keep water levels high, a condition that led to the rejection of a similar measure last year.

It defines a “reasonable recreation experience” for kayaking and excludes other activities. At issue is how much water towns like Avon, which may build a park on the Eagle River, can claim and when they can use that water.

Kayak courses are growing in popularity for towns in western Colorado. Vail has one on Gore Creek. Aspen offers a small kayak course on the Roaring Fork River and Glenwood Springs, already a mecca for kayakers thanks to its locale at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, is eyeing development development of a whitewater course.

Agricultural operations and developers have tried to limit claims for recreational water rights any way they can, claiming water parks will interfere with future development. Backers say whitewater parks are important to the economies in mountain towns.

At its essence, the fight over these so-called “in-stream diversions” that create the water parks is about who will control the state’s water.

“Water is power,” said state Rep. Al White, a Winter Park Republican who helped craft the latest bill. “I want to make sure recreational in-channel diversions are used for recreation, not for wielding power.”

State Rep. Gary Lindstrom, a Breckenridge Democrat who played a huge role in defeating last year’s measure, said it’s not possible for the state Legislature to spell out a detailed definition of a “reasonable recreation experience” but that each application must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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