Fort Collins Police Services restricts Poudre River access to 'reduce unsafe activities'
In an attempt to discourage boating and floating on what has proven to be a highly dangerous stretch of the Poudre River, Fort Collins Police Services is limiting access to portions of the river.
The Legacy Park and North Shields River Access parking lots are closed to motor vehicles until river conditions improve for recreation, Fort Collins police announced Tuesday afternoon. They've also closed access to the Poudre River shoreline between North Shields River Access and Salyer Natural Area.
“We know it’s summertime, it’s hot, and people want to enjoy our beautiful natural resources, but it’s just not safe to float or boat on this part of the Poudre River right now,” Kristy Volesky, assistant chief of Fort Collins police, said in a news release. “We’ll continue working with our local partners to inform the community, reduce unsafe activities, and prevent tragedy.”
Poudre Fire Authority has rescued 18 people from the Poudre River this spring, according to the news release, five of which happened Monday evening. The vast majority of the rescues have occurred in the stretch of river between Legacy Park and Whitewater Park.
“We typically have several rescues throughout the season, but to have this many this quickly is higher than usual,” PFA spokesperson Annie Bierbower said.
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The city has made attempts to discourage boating and tubing on the river, especially in these areas, though seemingly to no avail.
There are signs along the river — including multiple at the Legacy Park take-out — pointing out safe take-out places and warning of dangerous areas and dams ahead. Following a late May weekend that saw eight rescues, the Fort Collins Parks Department put up temporary digital signage reiterating the messages and stationed a ranger to tell boaters when to get out and prevent them from continuing on past Legacy Park.
When announcing the river access closures, city officials reminded recreators that using the river when its conditions are unsafe also risks the lives of responders and impacts the community through road closures.
"Please think twice before risking your lives and the lives of responders," said Brandon Garcia, PFA's interim operations division chief, in the news release. “While our swiftwater technicians are highly trained professionals, every rescue is a resource-intensive effort that comes with safety risks to all involved."
City officials expect the river to remain "hazardous for the next several weeks as spring runoff continues." The snowmelt contributing to the river makes the water extremely cold, and the increased precipitation Fort Collins has seen in the past months could also be contributing to the heavy flow of the river.
Fort Collins police attributed an increase in debris to the 2020 Cameron Peak Fire, saying it has created "further dangers to recreators." Bierbower said a number of rescues have happened following tubers getting stuck in a growing debris pile near the railroad pass between Legacy and Whitewater parks.
The parking lots, nearby natural areas and trails are open for pedestrians, cyclists and nonmotorized vehicles, according to the release.
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Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at email@example.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.