Tubing ban on Colorado River temporarily delayed

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by KRIS BETTS / KVUE News and photojournalist JP HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @KrisB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 27, 2013 at 10:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 28 at 11:02 AM

AUSTIN -- East Side Tubes was recently shut down by Austin Code Enforcement from the path to their business down at the river bank.

On Tuesday night, Austin’s Parks and Recreation Board had to decide whether or not to recommend banning tubes on the Colorado River entirely from Longhorn Dam to U.S. 183.

“I feel like I’m being targeted. I’m a single target here, and it's tough,” said East Side Tubes owner Dan Walker.

But Kirk Scanlon with the Parks and Recreation Department tells KVUE this is not a personal attack - it's about safety, paticularly concerning the tuber’s proximity to the dam and the water released from it during the day.

“You have fluctuating water levels and swift water due to the releases from Austin Energy and LCRA at any given time without any forewarning,” said Scanlon.

The department believes fluctuating water levels, about two feet on average, are unsafe for tubers.

However, Walker says since he opened East Side Tubes two months ago, they haven't had any safety problems.

“We've not had one incident in the water. We go down and we account for everybody at the end of the night and we pick up trash.”

Current city code is silent on the use of inner tubes. Walker said this ban would be the death of his business.

“We've let go of ten employees. Their families are out on the streets, and I thought this was a pro-business state," he said.

Parks and recreation board member Hill Abell pointed out that swimming is allowed on this stretch of the river, so why not tubing.

“Is this really just a way to shut down a business?” he questioned Tuesday night.

“I want to know why swimming is safer than inner tubes,” said Walker.

Homeowners along the Colorado River spoke in favor of the ban, saying they want to preserve the river the way it is and tubing threatens that.

“We have an incredibly precious resource there that's the result of 40 plus years of effort by a whole lot of people,” said Chris Brown with the River Bluff Neighborhood Association.

Two parks and recreation board members agreed, but the others questioned the city's right to ban inner tubes on the river at all.

“It's part of Texas law that the public has access to our waterways,” said board member Jeff Francell.

“I think there's a political agenda. I need to see facts. I need to see facts [that] it's unsafe,” Walker said before the board Tuesday.

Ultimately, the parks and recreation board voted in favor of requiring concessions for any business using the river, including East Side Tubes. But they voted down the tubing ban for now.

The board requested more detailed information from the parks department about safety on the river, including swimming to be discussed next month.

The board may still vote to recommend a tubing ban to city council in the future, once they have more information.

 

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