Trash and trouble? Or income and opportunity? What the Parker Tube Float represents depends greatly on whether you’re the owner of a home or of a business.
Members of the public packed the boardroom at the La Paz County Board of Supervisors Monday afternoon to talk about the future of the Parker Tube Float, the annual floating party that helps kick off summer on the Parker Strip each June.
For 39 years, the Tube Float has been its own holiday weekend, in recent years outpacing other big weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day by the numbers. But earlier this year, the other big Float on the Colorado River, the Bullhead City River Regatta, was canceled after it was deemed to have gotten irredeemably out of control, a decision which has cast fresh light on the ‘side effects’ of the Parker event.
Homeowners along the route of the Float took to the boardroom podium to describe belligerent, intoxicated participants, mountains of trash, invasions onto private property, taxed law enforcement agencies, altercations, expenses including the cost of hiring private security guards, and environmental destruction.
Mary Hamilton of the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes and runs the Float, said she was glad for the opportunity to discuss the event as a community, including all the perspectives of the people who want the event to be cancelled.
“Any complaints that have come into my office haven’t fallen on deaf ears, I can promise you,” she told the packed boardroom. “We are listening. We have hired security for known trouble spots and evidently that didn’t make a dent in the problems on docks and shores. We have a very small base of volunteers, our 3 most active volunteers are over 65. If this event is going to continue, we need help.”
The economic returns for the community are significant, with the Tube Float bringing several thousand people to the river that weekend in June, a shot in the arm to a business community that relies on seasonal influxes. But as the Float has grown in size, it has become more challenging to control.
For the past few years, the event has started at La Paz County Park and finished at BlueWater Resort & Casino. On the way, it passes many riverfront homes, including large subdivisions like Miraleste Shores, Moovalya Keys and Keys II. It also crosses into the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation and passes homes on its stretch of riverfront. Some of the homeowners in those areas were lively as they spoke of the skirmish the event has become for them.
“I’ve been coming to the river for 25 years and live here now,” said one resident. “I want to oppose this event completely. That river is destroyed, literally a wreck after the event.”
Another said they had a lot invested in their river home. “I loved the Tube Float seven years ago. I’ve hated it for the last few years.”
She said she had glass and garbage all over her property. “We decided we can’t leave our house alone during Tube Float. A guy virtually threatened my sister for not allowing us to use our bathroom.”
The homeowner had to hire a private security guard at their own expense during the day of the Float. “The Tube Float is out of control and you’re not going to be able to bring it back.”
A third got up to describe an altercation on a dock a few years ago, and added to the chorus complaining about trash. “Mary [Hamilton] took the time to look at the trash at my house,” he said. “There were dozens of cans and bottles and other debris on the riverbed. I’ve had violence at my house, a guest at my house was so upset they won’t come back.”
Well-known water-skier Mike Mack also said he has a problem with the Float, saying that people call him a rich “blank” for having a house on the river, to which Mike commented that when he first got to Parker he lived in his car.
“The Tube Float doesn’t seem to work,” he said. “A twelve-hour float? I just don’t see it working.”
There was some support for potential solutions mentioned too, by resort owners, business owners and others in attendance Monday. Some voiced their sadness at such an iconic event in the Parker area going away, and urged less talk of eliminating the event and more talk about controlling it.
“What if you start at Buckskin and end at La Paz County Park?” one resort owner asked. In this version, there would be less housing to pass. However, according to Chamber staff, this route has been tested and the shape of the river is not conducive to the river float, so there could be significant trade-offs involved in changing the start and finish lines.
“Most of the problems are caused by people who aren’t registered in the event,” he added. Various ways of trying to ensure that fewer unregistered participants are floating were mentioned, but law enforcement agents were skeptical that there would be an effective control method.
One business owner who said their income from the event is very good added that they would be willing to contribute to picking up the bill for the event, saying that it’s a love-hate relationship for them too, but that it’s good for the area economy.
Among the potential tweaks:
- Collecting money and issuing wristbands for the event at the gate instead of inside the park to maximize revenues and increase fairness
- Raising the cost of entry from $10 to $20, hoping to cap participant numbers and generate more revenue
- Paying for security guards for homes
- Hiring trash collectors to work the event and post-float
- Increasing numbers of volunteers to free up law enforcement response
- Increasing sponsorship revenue from local and commercial partners
“For the most part, it was a very constructive meeting,” Mary told Parker Live. “Our organization understands the issues that the residents in those areas have, we really do. No decisions have been made at this point, we need input from the Tribes as well. That’s very important.”
Work on the Parker Tube Float usually begins in earnest at Chamber offices each January. Any decisions about changes to the event will be approved by the Chamber Board of Directors in the coming weeks, according to Mary.
“I’m so grateful to the County Board of Supervisors for facilitating this work session and for everybody for coming to give us their input.”
Have an opinion on the Float? Share it with the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce HERE.