Gypsum’s Rittenhouse boat ramp reopens to the public
Owners, town of Gypsum reach deal that separates public use from commercial operations
The Rittenhouse boat ramp in Gypsum is again open to members of the public but the property owners plan to negotiate with commercial operators regarding their future use of the facility.
Emanuel Pilas, whose family now owns the Rittenhouse property, said he reached an agreement Monday with the town of Gypsum.
“The ramp is open to the public for private noncommercial use only, which has left the door open for us to work with commercial outfitters throughout the valley,” Pilas said. “At the moment, we are weighing the options and trying to balance our business needs while trying to relieve some of the over-fishing that is happening on the lower Eagle River.”
On Tuesday, the town released its announcement about the successful boat ramp negotiation.
“The ramp is now open and operating under an annual lease agreement that grants access to the public through the town for a fee of $2,500 per year and provides the property owner with liability protection for activities on the ramp,” reads the town’s statement.
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Last week, members of the Gypsum Town Council learned about the possible boat ramp closure and an access fee request from the new owners. While they did not support the initial proposal, Town Council members directed staff to continue talks with the Pilas family to work out a deal. Ultimately, the solution was to separate public use from commercial use at the site.
“While we understand this may limit our earning potential as a business, we hope by controlling access to the river it will provide long-term sustainability so it can be enjoyed by future generations,” Pilas said.
Boat ramp backstory
When the boat ramp issue was reported last week, Pilas noted the discussion actually began last month.
“On May 7, we approached the town and informed them that we have assumed ownership over the boat ramp. Our concerns were obvious — the heavy foot traffic the ramp experiences during the summer months and the lack of liability insurance from the public using the ramp to load into the river,” Pilas said. “We proposed to the town that we would love to see the ramp continue to be a public amenity, but we needed financial support to cover the costs of maintaining the parking while adding additional parking to accommodate river users in conjunction with future restaurant patrons.”
Pilas said the family is currently in the process of opening a restaurant at the site. “Our vision when we invested in the Rittenhouse/Lundgren Property was to see an area with so much potential, that has been historically inactive, come alive and become the heart of Gypsum.”
He said family members opted to keep the boat ramp open while negotiations with the town continued, and it wasn’t until June 9, when they learned about the town’s concerns regarding the proposed 12-month lease, that they decided to close the access.
“We disagreed, as the boat ramp is used throughout the entire year,” Pilas said. “Having the financial support for only three to four months would not even cover the expenses to maintain the boat ramp to keep it in safe working condition from wear and tear of seasonal traffic.”
Pilas added that in previous years, the town financed resources for the boat ramp area, including portable restrooms and fencing improvements. Through the lease revenues, Pilas said his family envisioned additional improvements for the area.
Under the new deal with the town, the family will look to commercial users to provide those revenues.
“The property owner retains the right to lease the ramp for commercial river, fishing and hunting guide use,” notes the town’s statement. Commercial operators interested in having access to the ramp are asked to contact the owners directly at email@example.com.
“Details of any arrangements with commercial outfitters will come forth within the near future,” Pilas said. “At this time, we are happy to see and announce that the ramp can be enjoyed by the public.”
That public enjoyment, he stressed, is what led to the creation of the boat ramp in the first place.
“The ramp is the brainchild of my father Manuel and George Kondos (the former Rittenhouse owner) because they believed everyone should have access to the river,” Pilas said.