Lawmakers still fighting about kayak parks
SUMMIT COUNTY – Colorado lawmakers once again will grapple with the question of whitewater kayak parks – like the one on Vail’s Gore Creek – during the upcoming legislative session.
The latest proposal no longer includes a cap on the amount of water that can be claimed to keep water levels high in whitewater parks, 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.
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 economically 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.