Slidewaters, health district duel over reopening plan

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CHELAN — Lake Chelan’s Slidewaters fun park says it’s going forward with plans to reopen at half-capacity today, citing a Chelan-Douglas Health District inspection report that seemed to give a go-ahead.

But the health district says its inspection merely found the park “was well prepared to meet requirements for safe operation,” and it cannot override state health orders that forbid water parks from operating during Phase 1 of COVID-19 pandemic recovery.

Slidewaters, owned by Burke Bordner and Robert Bordner, announced earlier this week it would start summer operations with a health plan in place to dampen coronavirus spread among staff and customers. But under Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase Safe Start plan, counties in Phase 1 status like Chelan County cannot host water park or swimming pool operations.

On Friday, the park operators wrote on Facebook that they had received Chelan-Douglas Health District approval to reopen, and would do so from
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting today. Health district administrator Barry Kling issued a press release about 6:45 p.m. Friday night, saying the inspector’s report “was misinterpreted as permission to reopen immediately even though that violates the Governor’s current orders.”

The Bordners posted an image of an apparent “water recreation facility inspection form,” signed by the district’s environmental health specialist Richmond Petty, dated June 18 and stating “Facility is permitted to operate effective today 6/18/20.”

“The representation from Barry Kling and the CDHD that this was a misinterpretation of our inspection is a lie from an administrator trying to cover up the poor management of the CDHD,” the Bordners wrote. “We do not appreciate him shifting blame to us for his organization’s actions.”

Kling’s press statement says, “CDHD notified the slide park to clarify that reopening now would cause suspension of the facility’s permits and expose it to enforcement actions by state agencies. CDHD wishes the water park well and believes it will be well operated when it is legal to do so, but CDHD does not have the authority to override the Governor’s orders, which do not currently allow the operation of such facilities.”

Chelan and Douglas counties are now in a modified Phase 1 under Safe Start, which says water parks are not allowed to reopen until Phase 3. Other Wenatchee Valley businesses that have tried to operate despite Phase 1 closures have faced threats to have permits suspended by state agencies like the Department of Labor and Industries and the Liquor and Cannabis Board.

Slidewaters is already involved in a federal lawsuit against L&I, financed by the conservative Freedom Foundation. The park sued last month seeking to block L&I’s ability to fine businesses who defy Inslee’s orders. But a judge in U.S. District Court in Spokane last week denied a motion for a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the waterpark to open.