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Two waterparks forced to close due to Covid-19

Two waterparks were forced to close early for the season after disputes with state officials.

Aquaboggan Waterpark in Saco, Maine, and Slidewaters in Chelan, Washington, both closed this August after battles with their states’ officials proved unsuccessful.

On August 28, police showed up to Aquaboggan and served the manager with a cease and desist letter on behalf of the state to close the waterpark.

The letter states that Aquaboggan regularly hosts over 100 people and recently had more than 1,200 customers in the waterpark. Maine’s state guidelines allow “shared spaces” to accommodate only 100 people.

“Having 1,200 persons gather at a waterpark poses a significant public health danger, and I trust that you do not want to see Aquaboggan be the source of an outbreak,” wrote Jack Clements, the Saco Chief of Police in the cease and desist letter.

Management at Aquaboggan doesn’t believe the waterpark should be classified as a “shared space” and therefore shouldn’t have to abide by the 100-person limit.

“This is all open space much like the beach or a state park,” said Ethan Mongue, the Operations Manager at Aquaboggan.

On August 29, Aquaboggan announced their closure in a Facebook post, citing strict and inconsistent state regulations as the reason for their closure.

“While we firmly disagree that some of these regulations should apply to Aquaboggan, staff and guest safety has always been the number one priority and we will always place public health above profit. We plan to confront the inconsistency of the guidelines by working to create policy change rather than operate against them, but unfortunately this takes time.”

Meanwhile, a waterpark on the west coast suffered a similar fate after ongoing skirmishes with state officials.

On August 26, Slidewaters, a popular waterpark in North Central Washington state, announced they were giving up hope of reopening operations and will focus on a 2021 Memorial Day restart.

The announcement came after weeks of legal activity. In June, Slidewaters filed a lawsuit against Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

In its lawsuit, Slidewaters argued: (1) Governor Inslee lacks the power to declare an emergency in response to Covid-19, because state law only permits the Governor to declare an emergency in response to a “public disorder, disaster, energy emergency, or riot.” Managing public health emergencies is allegedly left to county authorities; (2) the Department of Labor and Industries lacked authority to issue emergency regulations implementing Governor Inslee’s order; and (3) the state’s actions shut down businesses like Slidewaters without adequate due process, a constitutional requirement.

Slidewaters lost the case in court and have since appealed.

During the litigation, they remained open against the Governor’s orders and in July, were visited by officials from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries and issued a “Notice of Immediate Restraint” which ordered the park to close. They were also assessed a fine of nearly $10,000 for violating the governor’s “Safe Start” order. Finally, the park’s owners were threatened with 6-month’s imprisonment if they continued to defy the Governor’s orders.

The Bordner Family, who operate the park, reported to the Chelan County Health District that they were utilizing strict Covid-19 guidelines and had actually been approved to operate by the health department until they lost their lawsuit.

They had also explored a variety of operational models with the Chelan Douglas Health District, including:

• Running at 30% of capacity;

• Opening to private parties of fewer than 200; and

• Taking reservations and allowing no more than 50 guests at a time.

All were denied by the Washington State Board of Health.

They were forced to lay off 150 employees, and in a press release said: “Having generated less than 20% of our expected 2020 revenue, we are facing a very difficult path to get to Memorial Day 2021, but we are confident it is a possibility.”

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