I understand tourism is a vital component of the High Country’s economy, but the growth of tubing/kayaking/river adventure businesses in the past few years has gone unchecked and progressively gets worse each year.

Now, cars park, often sticking out into the road, on both sides for 1/2 mile around Green Valley Park and along many other roads down the New River. The traffic, lack of driver attention or consideration and tubers who are still intoxicated at the end of the trip are going to lead to accidents sooner or later. Not only are the roads packed with customers and shuttle vans, from the five companies (and there might be even more), but the river is also packed.

My husband and I used to love floating down the river, fishing, watching for wildlife and enjoying the beautiful, peaceful area where we are fortunate enough to live. Five years ago we would float from Castle Ford bridge to Green Valley Park. Then we started floating from Raven’s Rock to Castle Ford in order to avoid the flood of tourists.

Now, that’s not even an option. There is not a single stretch of the New River from Boone to Fleetwood that hasn’t been commercialized. I know the companies are trying to make money, but can’t there be just one section reserved for locals so we can enjoy the things that made us choose to live in this region in the first place such as nature, outdoor activities and a smaller population?

It is impossible to experience the serenity and enchantment of floating a river through a lush mountain forest when there are kayakers constantly paddling by and large groups of tubers being boisterous. The river companies deploy a new group of customers every five minutes, covering the river with yellow equipment for as far as the eye can see. The river haven I knew is no more.

The sheer volume of people also makes me wonder about the impact on the river. Several times I have seen trash around the put-in spots used by the guide services. In fact, one time there was a dirty diaper lying on the landing area shore. There is always trash on the bottom of the river that has been dropped, too. I also worry about the unseen contaminants, such as sunscreen, being introduced into the ecosystem.

I know navigable waters are public domain, but I am unsure about the commerce regulations. Are these companies paying a tax for the use of the river from which they profit? The excursion businesses are not solely to blame for trash, but I would like to know what efforts are made by the companies to offset their impact. Do they do river clean-ups? As for their infringements on solitude, are there any regulations on their routes? Could an arrangement for a non-commercialized section be discussed?

Since the river is public domain, it is mine too, and I want to be able to actually enjoy a pristine aquatic sanctuary for years to come.

Alana Baird


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