Kelowna Wibit park operator Rylie Gallagher (left) at the newly set-up Wibit park in Penticton, alongside local staff. Dustin Godfrey/Western News

High waters won’t ground the Wibit

Those itching to get climbing and playing on the water will likely get their chance on July 1

Despite worries that high waters had ruined any chance of opening Kelowna’s Wibit floating play structure, operators say they’re waiting on word from city hall to set the structure up as early as July 1.

For operators of Kelowna’s and Penticton’s Wibit parks, there’s a particular piece of business that the family-run company has lost after delaying opening by a couple of weeks.

“One aspect of our business that we have lost out on this year is last year we had a quite a few school group come down for their end-of-the-year school parties,” added Randy Gallagher, who runs the Penticton park. “So that business has been non-existent for us this year.”

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But otherwise the parks don’t tend to get too much business in June, anyway, according to Randy’s son, Rylie, who runs the Kelowna park.

“If we install earlier, we find it’s fairly slow until the school holidays begin,” he said.

Rylie noted, however, that he had turned away a few groups who had been looking to head to the Kelowna Wibit park for their end-of-year parties.

In Penticton the Wibit park is opening up on Saturday, which is pretty much on schedule, according to Randy.

“We’re surprised at how much beach we have in Penticton across from Salties, by the SS Sicamous. The water is receding quite a bit, there,” Randy said. “Never fast enough, but at least it’s receding to the point we’re able to put our park in.”

To provide more accessibility to the park, Randy said they’ve added a new inflatable bridge, so people don’t need to swim as far.

But in Kelowna, Rylie says he’s got July 1 set for opening, granting approval from the city, which needs to take down tiger dams along the beaches.

“We’re still working with the city to try and make sure that we’re good to go in. A far as we know and what we’ve heard from the city is we’re okay to open July 1,” he said.

“We’ve inspected the area ourselves in Kelowna at our location. It does look accessible and it looks just fine, but they do have protective measures in place.”

If, in fact, the Wibit does open for July 1, it will have dodged a bullet that claimed the Canada Day fireworks set for that evening, which were cancelled due to high waters on the lake.

The Gallaghers said they typically open up the Kelowna Wibit park in the middle of June, which means about a two-week delayed opening if the park opens over the long weekend.

“So, as our other parks open up on the same lake, we would hope that we can follow our schedule for the Kelowna opening,” Rylie said.

“We have it pushed back a little bit already, but we’re hoping to hear the final word today or tomorrow to confirm our installation dates.”

Randy says the area where the Kelowna Wibit park typically goes in was “relatively unaffected,” though tiger dams are still in place at that area.

“We don’t make waves or anything like that, and our anchors are already in, so it’s just a matter of the city giving us the green light,” he said. “I think the City of Kelowna is very anxious to get their beaches open for the summer, so the highers-up will make that decision, and as soon as we get the green light, we’ll be putting our Kelowna park in.”

The Gallaghers say the Peachland Wibit park will be opening for sure by July 1 for its first year.

With 20 years operating Pier Water Sports under his belt, George Bishop says he’s never seen anything like the issues he and other watersport companies are facing with this year’s high waters.

“Never. Never,” Bishop said. “Never would have expected it, either.”

Typically opening on the May long weekend, Bishop says he’s finally getting to open up for business on Saturday, over a month late.

“Any damage to the shorelines around here has already been done. The lake has gone down, the sandbags are in place to protect whatever else is there,” Bishop said. “So, we’re going to open up and just ask our customers to stay in the middle of the lake and avoid anywhere near the shoreline.”

Bishop’s business offers pontoon boats, ski boats, kayaks, paddleboards and personal watercraft, which he said he’d be opening up this weekend. But he said he’d be holding off opening up parasailing boats and banana boat rides until next weekend.

Over a month late to opening his business, Bishop said the delay stings, but watersports often don’t get too busy until after school is out for summer, anyway.

“We haven’t been able to do any business, so it’s definitely hurting us. So it’s time we open right now and kind of recoup what we’ve lost.”

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