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Letter: Cheap floaties are the real scourge of Whistler's River of Golden Dreams

"The people behind the petition recognize there is an over-use problem with the ROGD and are pointing to an easy target, but banning the commercial operators will not solve the problem."
PaddlingWhistlerBCRiverofGoldenDreams
Banning commercial operators on Whistler’s River of Golden Dreams was the subject of a recent online petition.

The Aug. 18 issue of Pique had an article that asks a good question (“Petition calls for ban of commercial boats on River of Golden Dreams—but are they the real problem?”).

For many years I have paddled my kayak on Alta and Green lakes, and up the River of Golden Dreams (ROGD) from Green Lake to 21 Mile Creek (if the water level is high enough) and back down. I have often encountered boaters paddling their own craft: canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. They are frequently wearing PFDs, are not drinking, know how to manoeuvre their craft, and are paying attention to the river.

And I have often met boaters with the commercial outfits, usually in canoes or kayaks. They are often accompanied by a guide, are wearing PFDs, are not drinking, have received instructions and are paying attention. They may not be very adept at managing their craft, but usually do OK.

I rarely have any problems with either of these types of boaters. I normally let them decide which side of the river they want and I’ll take the other side.

But at some point in the summer I will encounter a herd of boaters in Explorer 200s or Kondor 2000s or other rubber duckies. They are rarely wearing PFDs, are usually drinking beer, can barely manoeuvre their craft, and are rarely paying attention. They go the same speed as the current and take up most of the river. I can’t get around them, and it’s difficult to get through them. No matter how loud I shout, they often don’t see me until one of them runs into me. Once the Explorers are coming down the river, I give up paddling the ROGD as it’s too much trouble.

The commercial operators are not the problem on the ROGD, but they are an easily identifiable target for a petition. Owners of their own craft should not be hassled, and the commercial operators are not the problem, but what should be done about the real problem, the herds of people in their cheap inflatables? There are about five items required by Transport Canada for non-motorized watercraft under six metres long. The two useful things are a PFD for each boater and some sort of paddle. The Explorers do come with a very short paddle, which can turn the craft but doesn’t seem to be able to make it go straight anywhere.

Of course, enforcing the PFD requirement would be a problem. Would it be the RCMP, bylaw officers, or some other group?

The people behind the petition recognize there is an over-use problem with the ROGD and are pointing to an easy target, but banning the commercial operators will not solve the problem.

John Hetherington // Whistler