Slidewaters hit with $10,000 fine for opening outside Safe Start order
In the midst of a legal battle against the state government’s Safe Start order, Slidewaters in Chelan now owes the state nearly $10,000 for reopening illegally.
The Department of Labor and Industries issued a $9,639 fine Thursday to the waterslide park, which has been open since mid-June.
The state also sent Slidewaters an order to immediately shut down until Phase 3 when water parks and pools are allowed to reopen. Chelan County has been in Phase 1.5 since early June.
Slidewaters announced Friday afternoon it would comply and shut its doors for the rest of the season.
This comes after a federal judge dismissed the waterslide park’s suit earlier this week, declaring that the state had the power to shut down businesses during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. The Freedom Foundation is appealing that decision on Slidewaters’ behalf.
“We’ve already appealed to the Ninth District for the ruling that came out of Spokane, and then the rest of the cases have been sent back to the Chelan County Superior Court,” Slidewaters co-owner Robert Bordner said. “So our legal battle with the state is not over.”
Tim Church, public affairs manager for L&I, said the state had reached out to Slidewaters on several occasions with phone calls, emails, and a letter alerting the business that it was breaking the law. L&I employees went to the site in early July for an inspection, but were turned away at the gate.
“They’ve had multiple chances to follow the governor’s order, but have chosen not to,” Church said.
Had the park complied after receiving these notifications, Church said, things wouldn’t have gotten to the point of a $10,000 fine being issued. He said the vast majority of businesses that L&I contacts for operating outside the governor’s order stop doing so immediately, thus avoiding fines.
“There’s no lack of clarity here, this is not about a misunderstanding in any way,” he said. “This is about a company that is choosing to violate the governor’s order, and it’s that simple.”
Church said Slidewaters now has 15 days to appeal the fine.
Bordner said he took his cues from a local decision that was made before the state got involved.
“We did receive a pre-inspection and approval to open from our Chelan-Douglas Health District, and that’s what we have been operating under,” he said. “When the state intervened and had different requests based on that, that was the state request … they’ve been going through their process.”
He said the park has been operating under a set of COVID-19 safety guidelines, including having staff members wear masks, enforcing social distancing, cleaning chairs and common areas often, placing hand sanitizer throughout the premises, and limiting capacity to 50%.
Bordner said he sees the action against his business as hypocritical in light of crowds in local state parks.
“My family can go to five government-run parks in the Chelan Valley and play in the water next to a bunch of other people we don’t know, and there’s no one doing anything about it to prevent them from spreading the disease,” he said. “But because they’re government-run parks, they’re OK to operate.”
Last month, he told KIRO Radio that losing out on the summer months — the only time of year when Slidewaters is open for business — could destroy the business.