EAST WENATCHEE — A “serious mistake” on a Chelan-Douglas Health District inspection form led Slidewaters in Chelan to open Saturday, a move that isn’t allowed until Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan.
The water park was inspected Thursday by the health district. Slidewaters co-owner Robert Bordner provided a copy of the inspection form, which says the park’s COVID-19 safety manual was reviewed and the facility met all reopening safety standards set by the state.
The form provided by Bordner ends with a circled note: “Facility is permitted to operate effective today 6/18/20.”
Health district administrator Barry Kling said in an email Saturday afternoon that the inspector wrote that after “misreading” the current Phase 1.5 guidelines.
“He explained that this was based on his misreading of the so-called Phase 1.5 rules currently in effect, and he now understands that was a serious mistake,” Kling said in the email. But only Gov. Jay Inslee or Secretary of Health John Wiesman have the authority to OK reopening the water park before Phase 3, he said.
“I can understand why he took it as permission to reopen, and then prepared to open his facility in good faith,” Kling said.
Kling apologized for the error and said he would “strongly recommend to the state that this be taken into account regarding any violation which may occur this weekend.”
The health district in a press release Friday said reopening could cause suspension of the facility’s permits and “expose it to enforcement actions by state agencies.”
The Chelan water park was denied a temporary restraining order last week that would have prevented it from incurring fines for reopening early. After that, Bordner said the park reached out to the state Department of Health for guidance on who would give the park approval when it came time to reopen.
DOH referred Bordner to the Chelan-Douglas Health District, which issues its operating permits. They contacted an environmental health specialist at the health district, who reviewed their COVID-19 safety manual and performed the inspection Thursday. The inspector gave them permission to operate at 50% capacity in Phase 1.5, Bordner said.
Later that evening Slidewaters took the news to its Facebook page and said it would reopen over the weekend. Then on Friday evening the health district issued a press release saying the that said the outcome of the inspection was “misinterpreted” by Slidewaters as permission to reopen immediately.
Bordner took to Facebook again a few hours later, posting a statement saying it was too late to turn back and the park would open regardless.
“We have now crossed a point of no return, as of this writing, it is late Friday night. We have employees and customers showing up in just a few short hours,” read part of the statement. “We have no choice but to reopen, as we were clearly given permission to do.”
The miscommunication was the fault of the health district, not the water park, Bordner said in the statement.
“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,” read part of Bordner’s statement. “We do not appreciate him shifting blame to us for his organization’s actions.”
In his response Saturday afternoon, Kling said the situation was “frustrating” but reaffirmed the park shouldn’t be open until Phase 3.
“Many of us dislike this and have deep sympathy with your position but we do not have the power to change it,” Kling said. “I truly regret that this has increased your distress in this difficult situation.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct Robert Bordner’s last name.