After receiving a complaint, the county is planning to block vehicular access to a Hoback beach that some have begun using as a boat ramp.
“It’s not an official boat ramp,” Commissioner Greg Epstein said at a July 13 meeting. “I don’t have problems with people using the county property to have a picnic or fish. I think the issue is people are driving down there with their trailers and either putting boats in or taking boats out.”
The property in question is a small sliver of county-owned land at the confluence of the Hoback and Snake rivers, just east of the bridge over the Snake near Hoback Junction. The land has been in the county’s portfolio since at least 2015. Chief Deputy Attorney Keith Gingery said it was originally purchased as a put-in for kayaks, and people often take advantage of its position at the confluence of the two rivers to fish from the parcel’s shore.
Joe Larrow, who first emailed commissioners about the issue July 6, said people started using the area as a takeout for rafts this spring after access to a private takeout a few hundred yards upriver was cut off. The new use, he said, is impacting the area.
“I just look at it as an environmental degradation,” Larrow told the Jackson Hole Daily. “I’ve been hanging out at the river down there for 50 years and I’ve never seen a really nice piece of river fall apart like it has down there in three months.”
County Administrator Alyssa Watkins said the county was already looking at reclamation on the property, but did not plan to take action in the next year because of fiscal constraints.
She also provided commissioners a word of caution, noting during the July 13 meeting that the board had only heard from one constituent about the issue.
“I think there are two sides of the story,” she said. “You will hear frustration from river users.”
The commission directed staff on July 20 to block off vehicular access to the parcel while continuing to allow foot access for other river users like fishermen, canoeists and kayakers.
Jared Baecker, the executive director of the Snake River Fund, an organization that advocates for public access along the river, told the Jackson Hole Daily he supported the move: “Not all things need to serve all people at all places. Putting some sort of restrictive barrier up is an appropriate protection for the resource.”
He added that the needs of Teton County Search and Rescue and the Bridger-Teton National Forest should be considered since they have used the area to launch boats for searches and drills.
County Facilities Manager Paul Cote said those organizations could be accommodated in the blockade’s final design.
Staff, he said, is considering a swing gate that could be padlocked, with openings large enough to carry a canoe or kayak through but small enough to block a trailer from backing down.
“It’ll probably be some combination of a steel gate and boulders on some sides,” he said.
Search and Rescue, he said, could be given the code to the padlock.
The obstruction would be placed at the county’s property line. The Wyoming Department of Transportation owns an adjacent parcel of land occupied by a few benches and a small parking area. The gate would keep trailers from going down the last few feet to the river past the parking area.
Cote said staff needs to finalize a design, get a price, and go back to the commission to ask for funding before things can be set up, so when they will accomplish that is an open question.