Public loses access to Rittenhouse boat ramp
Gypsum Town Council debates rental proposal from property’s new owner
Heading into what promises to be a hot June weekend, a popular downvalley Eagle River amenity has been shut off from public use.
Red caution tape festooned with “Private Property Keep Out” signs has been strung across the Rittenhouse boat ramp in Gypsum, a site that has attracted commercial outfitters and members of the boating public for several years.
According to Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann, the town had negotiated a nonfee access agreement with former owner George Kondos. In return, Kondos received a license agreement with the town that provided liability protection. But the Rittenhouse property has since sold to Manuel Pilas, who wants a different deal from the town.
On Tuesday night, members of the Gypsum Town Council learned about Pilas’ proposal for amended terms to allow public use of the boat ramp. Those terms include a $1,200 monthly rental fee and a yearlong lease in addition to the liability protection.
“My only thought is this is pretty expensive,” Rietmann told the council Tuesday night.
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Gypsum Town Council members agreed with that assessment, noting the total cost would be more than $14,000 for an amenity that is only used four months of the year.
Predicting a packed house
As they discussed the issue, Town Council members noted that the liability protection is a big boon to the landowner, as is the foot traffic the boat ramp brings to the site.
“If I had a restaurant there, I would want the boat ramp there,” offered Council member Chris Estes. “I think it is an asset for his business to have it there.”
Rietmann agreed that the town’s indemnification protection is a big benefit for the property owner, who has assumed that responsibility since the license agreement ended. That is the reason why the boat ramp has closed to the public. He noted representatives from the Pilas family have indicated if they can’t reach an agreement with the town, they will seek an exclusive private lease for the amenity.
Town council members said they want to find a way to keep public access to the site.
“If we say no (to the lease proposal), we will have a packed house here tomorrow,” Estes predicted.
Following the Town Council discussion, Rietmann said he approached the owners Wednesday to present a compromise — a town lease of the boat ramp through Oct. 1 at $1,200 per month and a license agreement to provide liability protection. The owners rejected that offer, Rietmann said.
“I then left them with an offer to enter into a license agreement with the town that provides the liability and indemnification they need if the language is modified to allow public access for private individuals,” Rietmann said. “That also reserves their right to go out and enter into an exclusive agreement with a commercial fishing outfitter for commercial operations at the ramp.”
That scenario would help the new owners gain a financial benefit from the ramp operation, Rietmann said.
“After all, the property is private, and it is the Pilas family’s prerogative to do what they wish with their own property and manage it how they see fit,” Rietmann said.
The town’s talks with the owners are ongoing, Rietmann said. But for now, caution tape is still blocking the access.
“It will likely be closed over the weekend as we remain in negotiations,” Rietmann said.