CENTRAL POINT — A Central Point man has signed on to a one-year pilot project this summer to determine whether running a commercial jet boat operation out of TouVelle State Park for interpretive boat trips along the Rogue River is a good long-term fit for the park and the company.
Taylor Grimes, the manager of Rogue Jet Boat Adventures, on Monday signed an Oregon State Parks Department contract which, when signed by state parks officials, would allow him to operate out of a portion of the park off Table Rock Road to run up to four trips daily with a maximum of 10 patrons each through October, according to a draft of the contract.
The contract also allows Grimes to install a temporary gangplank for passengers boarding and leaving his jet boat and build a temporary 16-by-8-foot structure to serve as a customer check-in, staging and souvenir shop immediately east of the Table Rock Road bridge on the park's upper section, according to the contract.
In exchange, Grimes would pay the Parks Department 3 percent of his gross receipts on trips he advertises for $49 for adults and $39 for children. The tours are described in the draft as recreational and educational, focusing on the history of the Table Rocks area as well as early settler and Native American history.
Grimes has been running such trips along the upper Rogue the past four years, operating out of private boat ramps the first two years.
Grimes, 45, had a conditional use permit to operate last summer out of TouVelle, and that CUP was extended earlier this month so he could begin running trips last week. He wants to use TouVelle as a long-term location for running his trips and he believes his operation fits well within the park's scope.
"It just makes sense," Grimes said. "The state parks' mission is history and discovery. That's our mission: to teach. It seems to fit really well."
The contract would expire in October, and state parks would use the time to collect comments on how well the operation meshes with other uses and facilities at TouVelle.
State parks officials ask that comments be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some riverside landowners have voiced concerns about Grimes' impacts on Rogue riparian vegetation and the safety of Grimes' operating in stretches populated by wading anglers, driftboaters and rafters.
Greg Layton, who lives near Rattlesnake Rapids, which is the upper end of the roughly 30-mile stretch where Grimes operates, says the tour boat is the largest boat with the largest motor to navigate that stretch.
"He stops in front of my place, gives some talk, then puts the hammer down and puts up a big wake," Layton said. "My neighbors and I are concerned about erosion."
Layton also said he worries the upper Rogue could turn into a smaller version of the middle Rogue stretch where Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions runs its trips.
Because of the nature of the upper Rogue, Grimes said he could never operate a boat rated for more than 16 people. The current boat has a maximum capacity of 10 passengers.
"It's not like we're taking a 747 out there like Hellgate," Grimes said.
Grimes said he believes his operation fits well in the stretch between Rattlesnake Rapids and the old Gold Ray Dam, which includes some of the more historic and undeveloped parts of the Upper Rogue.
"It's a multi-use river," he said. "That area is a jewel. The way people can experience that jewel is in our boat."