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Back at TouVelle

CENTRAL POINT — An excursion jet-boat operator bounced from using TouVelle State Park as his hub for trips on the upper Rogue River is back in business along the river's edge there, much to the chagrin of state parks officials.

Owners Taylor and Emily Grimes discovered there's a thin strip of land along the river's edge in the park's upper stretch that isn't owned by the Oregon State Parks Department, a discovery that allows them not only to launch their Rogue Jet Boat Adventures trips there but also install their own gangplank.

The strip is owned by the Oregon Department of State Lands, which does not require a permit as long as the operation doesn't add or remove material such as dirt and rocks.

Taylor Grimes, who in October lost his one-year pilot concessionaire permit to launch at the park because the business was deemed by state officials to be in conflict with other park users, can operate and access his ramp through the park provided he continues to follow other park rules just like everyday fishing guides do.

"We operate on the river, not a state park," Grimes says in an email to the Mail Tribune. "Our in common clients (customers) use the state park to access their river activities. Again, any park user accessing the river is doing the same thing."

Parks officials say this legal nuance allows the same incompatibility that other park users denounced last year before the concessionaire's permit was not renewed.

"To be perfectly frank, we ended that agreement because users of the park didn't like that," says Chris Parkins, state parks' south-central district manager.

"The activity people were complaining about hasn't changed," Parkins says. "We're not happy about that, but we are not in a position to stop him in any way."

Grimes says he should be encouraged by state parks to continue offering trips highlighting the cultural and natural values of that particular reach of the Rogue.

"We've created more park awareness in three years and taught more people about the history of the area than the state park has done in 30 years," Grimes says in an email.

"The State Parks mission is Discovery, History, Nature," he says. "Let's get real."

The Grimeses' discovery means they don't have to pay the 3 percent of their gross receipts — which tallied more than $1,700 during the two months they operated under the permit last year — to state parks officials as was required under his concessionaire's permit.

Like fishing and rafting guides, Taylor Grimes is licensed under the Oregon State Marine Board and can use park facilities for his business provided that no money changes hands on park lands and everyone follows parking rules.

Grimes has a business office in Central Point and shuttles his customers to the park's parking lot in vehicles with valid parking passes, Parkins says.

Under the permit, his operation was limited to four trips daily in the 10-passenger boat. This year, he has a new 25-foot boat.

Previous to the pilot permit, Grimes operated out of TouVelle under a conditional-use permit starting in 2014. This is his sixth season running trips.

State parks officials let Grimes' pilot-project permit expire after asking for, and receiving, public comment. A review of submitted comments shows that tour customers lauded the operation, but some other parkgoers, boaters and anglers decried the boat's presence on the stretch of the upper Rogue from Rattlesnake Rapids down to the Table Rocks area — a stretch of water upstream and downstream from TouVelle.

Rogue Jet Boat Excursions offers three 2½-hour "discovery tours" daily, with adults charged $69 with a meal or $59 without.

Grimes says that, ultimately, he would like to see TouVelle's boat ramp improved to create safe ingress and egress for his and other boats launching there.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Taylor Grimes, with Rogue Jet Boat Adventures, leads a tour up the Rogue River at TouVelle State Park. Mail Tribune 2015 file photo