Ten Mile Creek raft trips may not float
SUMMIT COUNTY – A plan by Kodi Rafting to run a two-hour, 4.5-mile raft trip down the Class III-IV rapids of Ten Mile Creek between Officer’s Gulch and Dillon Reservoir may have run aground.
Kodi owner Christian Campton said he was all set to start offering the trip as a two-hour “happy hour” trip geared to locals, but was contacted by the U.S. Forest Service after rangers with the Dillon District heard about the plan on the radio.
The agency was not prepared to issue a permit on short notice, but Campton said he’s not so sure he needs federal approval after getting the go-ahead from the town of Frisco and the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“I didn’t think I’d have to be involved with the Forest Service,” Campton said Friday morning, adding that he’s still waiting to get a detailed map of the area in question from CDOT. “I feel like we’re putting in on CDOT land and the take-out is through the town of Frisco,” he said. “I thought, sweet, we’re looking good.”
For Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton, the agency’s permitting authority is clear-cut. The stream passes through national forest land, so any proposed commercial activity requires a Forest Service permit. According to Newton, the proposed put-in location is on a CDOT easement across national forest land.
Campton, on the other hand, said it’s a gray area that, in this case, could even raise a fundamental right-to-float issue.
“They don’t own the water or the air,” he said, while acknowledging that he needs to maintain a good working relationship with the Forest Service.
According to Campton, there’s no “defining evidence” that would prevent him from offering the trip commercially.
“I told him there was no way I was going to be ready to issue a permit,” Newton said. “I was rather shocked that he didn’t talk to us first, or somewhere in the process,” he added. Newton said there are some competitive implications to the planned Tenmile run, and that the Forest Service is bound by its regulations to give other potential operators a chance to bid.
Campton’s plan was to run four boats once a day, Monday through Thursday, with the season lasting about a month. He said it’s a fun section of river, dropping about 110 vertical feet per mile on much of the reach, with almost continuous whitewater.
“It’s something right here in our backyard. It keeps the money in the county, instead of somewhere else,” he said.
Newton said the agency has very clear direction when it comes to issuing permits that fall under the outfitter-guide category. Those requirements include doing some sort of assessment of environmental impacts, similar to any other proposed activity on national forest lands, whether it’s clearing beetle-killed trees or putting up a new chairlift.
Many proposed commercial outfitter-guide activities on the Dillon District have been on hold, or moving slowly while the agency works on a capacity analysis, looking at how to balance human uses of public land with the need to protect natural and cultural resources.
The district has not been taking new requests,” pending completion of that study, said Cam Meyer, a resource specialist with the district. “There’s been no commercial analysis of any kind for that area,” Meyer said. “We told him he could apply for a permit for next year,” Meyer said.
Newton said that, once the study is done, the district will look at issuing more long-term permits for the various outfitter and guide operations on national forest lands, a move that would give businesses more long-term stability and cut down on paperwork.
Similar questions arose last winter, when the Dillon District permitted Copper Mountain to use a dormant campground at Officer’s Gulch as a short-term employee park-and-ride location. In that case, the agency quickly authorized the request without additional studies, based on the fact that the area is managed under a scenic byways and travel corridor designation. Camping and parking use both fit under that allocation, Forest Service lands specialist Paul Semmer said in an earlier interview.
It could be an apples-to-oranges comparison, according to Newton.
“That was a use I felt comfortable approving,” he said, based on the short-term nature of the request and the existing management designation for the abandoned campground along the Interstate.
It’s not clear whether the rafting proposal will lead to a full-on showdown between Kodi and the Forest Service. While Campton sounded like he might be ready to challenge to agency on its permitting authority, Newton stands firm in his commitment to manage the public resource by the book.
“He (Campton) might want to think about how his actions might affect his ability to get a long-term permit,” Newton concluded.
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