RANGELY I Last fall when a seaplane landed at Kenney Reservoir, it was a bit of an anomaly. A pilot had called Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District (RBWCD) Manager Alden VandenBrink and asked if there were any restrictions for landing a plane on Kenney Reservoir. The pilot said he had business to do in Rangely, and upon learning there were no restrictions at Kenney, the plane “dropped in” shortly after the phone call.
Colorado is the only state in the nation that prohibits seaplanes from having access to any public waterways, but because Kenney Reservoir is not a publicly-owned waterway and the RBWCD was amenable to the idea, the plane was allowed to land. The landing sparked an idea for VandenBrink: Seaplanes could draw new recreational activity to Kenney Reservoir.
On Saturday, July 15, members of the Colorado Seaplane Initiative, led by Ray Hawkins, will hold the first Colorado Mountain Splash-In at Kenney. Seaplanes will first fly in to Rangely Airport at about 7:30 a.m. to undergo the same kind of inspection boats are subject to in an attempt to control the spread of invasive plant and animal species. Once cleared, the planes will fly to Kenney Reservoir and land on the water around 8 a.m. Transportation will also be available by bus between the airport and the reservoir provided by Colorado Northwestern Community College. Individuals wishing to attend by car are encouraged to take advantage of the CNCC transport to avoid overloading the parking areas at the reservoir.
Hawkins said they plan to have something of a “Wild West showdown” between two planes, the Quest Kodiak and the Cessna Caravan, both 10-passenger aircraft.
“They’ll try and show each other up,” Hawkins said. The Cessna is coming from Wichita, Kan., and the Quest is owned by a pilot in Eagle, Colo. “There will be a few other aircraft there as well, and pilots are encouraged to offer rides.”
After the aircraft demonstration there will be a picnic at Kenney Reservoir sponsored by the Colorado Seaplane Initiative. The group is planning for up to 250 people to attend. The picnic will be free for members of pilots organizations, the CNCC aviation program and seaplane organizations. A $15 donation is requested for anyone else attending.
Hawkins is also the field director for the Colorado Seaplane Pilots Association and the seaplane liaison for the Colorado Pilots Association. A 20-year Air Force veteran, Hawkins didn’t expect to wind up at the forefront of a legal battle with Colorado Parks and Wildlife six years ago when he tried to add a seaplane rating to his pilot’s license.
Despite multiple appearances before and requests to the Parks and Wildlife commission, the agency has remained adamant that seaplanes are not a good fit for Colorado’s public waterways, citing safety concerns, invasive species, and a lack of personnel and policies.
“We’re very aware of all those things,” Hawkins said. “We’re trying to go above and beyond the requirements set by the other 49 states.”
The Colorado Mountain Splash In will be the second splash in this year for the Colorado Seaplane Initiative, which is working to raise awareness and understanding in the hopes of getting legislation passed that will overturn the restrictions for seaplanes on Colorado’s public waterways.