Pilot project to rent kayaks on Thompson River in Kamloops didn’t hold water | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Pilot project to rent kayaks on Thompson River in Kamloops didn’t hold water

Tourism Kamloops renovated the concession stand at Riverside Park for the pilot project to rent watersports equipment. The results of this season leave one rental outfit unsure if he would return.
September 11, 2021 - 6:02 PM

After a hopeful and ambitious start for a project to rent water sports equipment at Riverside Park in Kamloops, the results at the concession stand this summer left much to be desired.

Keven Watt, who owns Kamloops Watersports Rentals, was thrilled to have the opportunity when he partnered with Tourism Kamloops to rent out his kayaks at the park. Unfortunately, he had days with one or no rentals at The Concession where he had an employee stationed all summer.

"I don't know why, but at the end of the day we just were not busy. It could be because we had a really crappy summer with the smoke," he said. "I wouldn't say the concept is dead after a small pilot project like this."

He's surprised, after what appeared to be a fair amount of public support, it did not generate visitors like he thought it would.

Watt still has to look through his financial numbers for the season to really determine what his losses were, but the cost to have an employee at Riverside Park all summer and the investment in more kayaks to rent did not prove profitable. He said that while it was a great opportunity, he is unsure if he would return to the Riverside Park location or simply continue at his main location where he rents equipment on River Street.

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It's difficult to say exactly why the rental project at Riverside Park, he said, but pointed out Kamloops had experienced renewed public health restrictions due to a surge of COVID-19 cases and wildfire smoke plagued the city for most of the season.

The safety restrictions placed on his business meant he could not rent stand up paddle boards, only kayaks. Watt believes that stand up paddleboards are actually safer for those new to paddling.

The pilot project was proposed to city council on May 18 by Tourism Kamloops, with the conditions that they would bring a review of the project's results after the summer was over. The proposal promised a renovated concession building — which is scheduled to be demolished this fall — and watersports rentals for park goers. 

Coun. Denis Walsh was critical of the plan, saying the commercial activity at Riverside Park goes against the City's plan for downtown.

When asked if he would vote against renewing rentals at the concession if it were to return to council, Walsh said his issues with the pilot project had very little to do with its financial success.

"I just don't think it's the appropriate location, due to the risks and potential liabilities," Walsh said, adding that a location like Pioneer Park would be more suitable.

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He would be open to that location because the river current is less dangerous on the South Thompson River, while it may cater more appropriately to a younger demographic that he sees more commonly visit Pioneer Park than Riverside.

He has also submitted a motion to council to propose that a parking lot between Sandman Centre and the South Thompson River be rezoned back to park space.

"It's always going to be a battle between people that want commercialization of the park versus solitude," Walsh said. "I think Riverside Park is a gem just the way it is. That's why I'm a proponent of greening Riverside Park, and even expanding it."

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Despite his aversion to allowing commercial activity at Riverside Park, Walsh said he has no issue with a concession stand offering snacks or food trucks stationed there.

As for the watersports equipment rentals, Watt agrees that the South Thompson River can be much safer, and even recommends his less experienced customers to paddle in the area between the Highway 5 bridge and Pioneer Park before taking on more aggressive currents at the confluence.

Watt is one of two outfits renting equipment at Riverside Park this summer, with Sea Legs renting water bikes. He believes they saw similar results as him, but could not speak for them.

Tourism Kamloops and Sea Legs did not respond to a request for comment.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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