Denied a 14-day temporary restraining order on Friday by a federal court judge in Spokane, Slidewaters, a popular Chelan water park, nonetheless plans to open within days in defiance of the stay-home edict imposed in early March by Gov. Jay Inslee in response to the current COVID-19 scare.
“The order sought to enjoin the state and (the Department of Labor and Industries) from imposing penalties on businesses that violate what’s clearly an illegal power grab by the governor in the first place,” said Sydney Phillips, an attorney for the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation, which is representing the park. “This is a defeat for common sense and the rights of independent entrepreneurs to earn a living.”
She said the organization will now seek an injunction to allow full briefing for the judge to consider all evidence.
Like thousands of other private-sector businesses throughout the state, Slidewaters was classified by Inslee and his team of bureaucrats as “non-essential” when the stay-home order was announced in early March, meaning it had to close down for an undetermined length of time.
Many have recently gotten the green light to re-open, but Slidewaters wasn’t among them, despite needing to operate for a full 100-day season to sustain the business during the down months.
Opened in 1983, Slidewaters — the premier water park in Washington between Federal Way and Spokane — also provides employment for at least 150 workers between the ages of 14 and 25.
The Freedom Foundation filed for the restraining order on Tuesday, arguing that Inslee lacked the authority to empower L&I as the enforcing agent for his policy, possibly fining offenders up to $10,000 a day.
Chelan County, with a population of 77,000 permanent residents, is one of the state’s most popular recreation destinations, particularly in the summer. According to the Chelan-Douglas Health District, the county has reported a total of 271 cases of COVID-19, with six deaths.
Only one county resident is currently hospitalized with the disease.
Meanwhile, Slidewaters has voluntarily implemented a detailed COVID remediation plan to keep the park clean and protect its guests as much as humanly possible.
“No one’s saying there isn’t a problem or that concerns shouldn’t be addressed,” Phillips said. “What we’re saying is that Washington shouldn’t have one plan for both Chelan and Seattle. The two locations have literally nothing in common, and their respective responses need to be flexible, realistic and community-based.
“The owners of Slidewaters have a vested interest in the health of its guests,” she said. “The only ones more concerned are the guests themselves. Collectively, they should be the ones to decide what actions are appropriate.”