No channel floating this summer? It's a race to figure out how to do it under pandemic protections - InfoNews

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No channel floating this summer? It's a race to figure out how to do it under pandemic protections

Penticton channel cruise operators Coyote Cruises is working with the City of Penticton and the province to find a way to operate safely in a COVID-19 environment this summer.
May 09, 2020 - 7:30 AM

A leisurely float down the two of the Okanagan’s more popular tubing rivers is almost certainly going to be more complicated this summer thanks to COVID-19 pandemic protocols.

Mike Campol with Penticton’s Coyote Cruise says the tubing company is definitely going to have to adjust operations as they look to the province for some direction.

“It’s a federal waterway in a province with an entry point in a municipal park. Different levels of government will be providing guidance,” Campol says.

He doesn’t think the feds will want to weigh in on the matter, but discussions are ongoing with the City of Penticton.

Coyote Cruises has been trying to stay ahead of the issue, while working on what it can change so when it gets the final directions it will be able to get going.

“It’s a challenge. If you look at the numbers of channel floaters, Coyote only captures a small percentage of that. We are looking for ways to work with the City to ensure the safety measures we put in place will be applicable to all channel users,” Campol says.

“We don’t want to mislead anyone to think we want to control all traffic on the channel, but we are willing to take on a bigger responsibility ensuring entry and exit points are handled with the proper social distancing.” 

The company has already realized some obvious steps will have to be taken.

“We won’t be renting any party floats this summer, that’s easy, but entry and exit and direction in the channel, how that’s going to happen safely still needs to be determined. We’re willing to take on some of that responsibility, in terms of ensuring everyone on the channel follows the protocol,” he says.

Conversations are continuing with the City, but the company has yet to finalize its licensing agreement to operate this year.

“It’s our only other hurdle to get through this year. We’re trying to work with the City but we have some concerns as to some of the changes that will be required with sanitation, washrooms and things of that nature. We need to get through that in order to finalize an agreement to get operating this summer,” Campol says. "I think it’s a great opportunity for the Penticton Indian Band, Coyote Cruises and the city to work toward a solution, because that channel means a lot to everybody."

City of Penticton chief financial officer Jim Bauer said in an email the City does not have jurisdiction with respect to passage on the channel, but is in a position to follow and promote all provincial health decisions that discourage people from assembling in a manner that compromises safe social distancing or sanitation.

“Should use of the channel be permitted this summer, the City will align with all steps taken by Coyote Cruises that ensure a safe experience is achieved, including entrances and exits and during passage,” he said.

Boaters and floaters are seen on the Shuswap River near Enderby in this undated photo.
Boaters and floaters are seen on the Shuswap River near Enderby in this undated photo.
Image Credit: North Okanagan Regional District

At the other end of the valley, the City of Enderby and the Regional District of North Okanagan aren't discussing any plans for monitoring floaters on the popular Shuswap River this summer.

City of Enderby spokesperson Laurel Grimm said the City has not provided any messaging as yet, but notes the season is still two months away. Enderby has limited control of access to the river.

Regional district general manager Mike Fox said it offers access to the river through hand launches used by fishermen, kayakers, tubers and others. He says parking is mostly on Ministry of Transport property.

"It's really up to the people to abide by provincial rules and regulations. We aren't dictating. On the river matters are governed provincially or federally, depending on what they are," he says. "We do recommend people maintain their distance and follow the rules and regulations."

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