As reported in the Maryville Daily Times.

Safety issues are a concern. Townsend has an all volunteer fire department, "which is responsible for rescuing tubers who are under distress on Little River." The department has handled more than 50 rescues in one season. A couple of years ago they had 11 rescures in 30 minutes. Suggestions to help alleviate the problems include requiring life jackets, not allowing tubing when the water is too high or too low, and requiring a specific size of tube.

Then there are the cost for "patrolling, rescuing and helping the tubers." "The City of Townsend charges $100 per calendar year for a permit that is required of any individual or entity operating a tube-related business within the city limits." Citizens with property along Little River are worried about the liability when a tuber gets hurt on their private property

Townsend property owners were hoping environmental concerns would give the city and county a foothold to regulate commercial tubing on Little River. A TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Water Resources) representative said that "baseline data "for years" shows that Little River is still at acceptable levels for recreational use standards for pathogens."

Citizens at the workshop worried about the health of Little River and described changes they have seen in the water. The citizens commented on thousands of tubers going to the bathroom in Little River in addition to all the suntan lotions being washed into the river. There were complaints about the disturbances of the sediment by the tubers. Late in the day you cannot see the bottom of the river. Then there are the people moving rocks to create flumes for tubers. TDEC tried to address this problem in 2008, but have found it hard to enforce since they have to see the activity themselves.

The large presence of tubers negatively affects fishing. "You can’t fly fish, said one resident. "I’ve hooked tubers before, and I’ve been told I’m a horrible person for standing on my own property and fishing."

Then there are the abandoned tubes along the river. Property owners don't want the tubing companies on their property retrieving tubes, nor do they want to go out of their way to return them to the companies. What do they do? Shove them back in the water for the next property owner to handle?

These problems may sound small and petty if you address each individually. But, if you look at the big picture tubing on Little River in Townsend is a growing issue and should be addressed. Maybe someone should build a fake river somewhere close by (like a theme park) and remove tubing from Little River completely. Just a thought.

The Little River in Townsend

It's governed by Tennessee non-navigable waterway law. The water belongs to the state of Tennessee but the river bank and the river bed belong to the landowner. There is no right to portage in Tennessee. That means that anyone who steps on the bank or even stands up in the river without landowner permission is technically trespassing.

It's time to get the outfitters together and let them propose a solution that protects property tax payers and the river. Barring that, aggressive enforcement of trespass law could have a depressing effect on river traffic and outfitter profits.

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