Friday, July 23, 2010
Colorado developer creates a controversy by trying to ban river rafting through his property
Texas-based developer Lewis Shaw brought the issue to the fore when he told two rafting companies they could no longer float rafts along the river past his ranch, where he is building an exclusive fishing community with multi-million-dollar homes. "Everyone seems to lead off with the statement that a rich Texan flies in, in his Learjet, and wants to shut down rafting in Colorado," Shaw, whose ranch lies on the banks of the Taylor River near Crested Butte, told Birkeland. "None of that is true. My goal was simply to develop this and the little bit of heaven that it is and have peace." State lawmakers stepped in this spring with a controversial bill that would have given rafters the legal right to float regardless of land ownership.
"I labeled this a 'right to trespass' bill," Republican state Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg told Birkeland. "Are we trying to set a precedent that maybe then hunters can go on our property on the eastern plains — where we don't have rafting — in the name of recreation? And I think that's why we saw people from across the state get involved in this." The bill died on the final day of the legislative session, and Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter brokered a temporary compromise on the Taylor River case, giving the rafting companies floating rights for the next four years. Rafters continue to worry, due to the legislature's inaction that the issue won't go away. "I just have always believed that the rivers belong to the public," Matt Brown, who co-owns Scenic River Tours, one of the companies involved in the dispute, told NPR. "Everybody has the right to use them." (Read more)