The National Park Service is defending its decision to move water recreation businesses up the river.
Earlier this week, Channel 2 Action News reported that Shoot the Hooch has to operate more than 20 miles upstream. Its owner said the move may force him to close his business.
Channel 2′s Bryan Mims went on a tour Thursday of the stretch with park rangers.
They embarked from Powers Island, a group divided into three rafts, everyone snug in a life vest.
The river is the color of coffee with cream. It runs cold and quick, with the occasional rapid.
The stretch of river is where tubers from “Shoot the Hooch” had floated along for years. Until this year.
The National Park Service moved the business from Powers Island to an area upstream, near Duluth.
One water recreation company, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, already operates from Powers Island and has a contract with the Park Service.
Superintendent Ann Honious said having both there caused crowds and confusion.
“It’s very confusing. It creates frustration and it doesn’t create the happy park experience that we hope people have,” Honious said.
“Shoot the Hooch” owner Bill Odrey the part of the river he was ordered to move to is more dangerous, with too many fallen trees and strong currents.
“They took you down the nicest, safest part of the river we’ve been operating on for 23 years,” Odrey said.
He said he’s not willing to take the chance on safety, so he may go out of business.
But another outfit, Chattahoochee River Tubing, has been running in the same area for 11 years. Owner Jordan Utley said it’s never had a serious safety issue.
“He’s not wrong about the trees being fallen down. It is a natural river. These trees are going to fall down. But there’s still plenty of room in the middle of the river to float down safely,” Utley said.
The park superintendent said the park’s main focus is conservation and maintaining the river’s natural environment. Recreation is secondary.
She said she thinks the Park Service has addressed the concerns of “Shoot the Hooch.”
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