The tubing ban on the Cowichan River has been lifted and The Tube Shack has announced it will be open for business for the summer as of June 27.
Tim McGonigle, acting Mayor of Lake Cowichan, said council decided to lift the ban and issue The Tube Shack a business licence for the season after determining that tubing on the river would be allowed under Island Health’s recently introduced stage-two plan for reopening some businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the town contacted WorkSafe BC and was advised that tubing would be permitted under stage two’s sports and recreation policies, and then reviewed The Tube Shack’s phased reopening plan for the summer and, after some concerns and issues were satisfactorily addressed by the company, the town gave the green light for it to open for the summer.
The town’s other tubing operator, Outdoor Recreation Kayak and Adventures, has informed the town that it has decided not to open for tubing this season at this time.
“We still have some concerns with the influx of people that will be coming here for tubing, and we’ll be watching launch points to ensure social distancing rules are being observed,” McGonigle said.
“Tubing is popular here and there are a number of spin-off businesses that rely on it as well, so we’re pleased that tubing will take place this summer.”
The town had banned tubing for the summer on the Cowichan River in April, after it was determined that tubing and its related activities could break the stringent rules around social distancing that were in place at the time.
Aaron Frisby, owner of The Tube Shack, said both the business and town officials are happy with the plans to lift the tubing ban, and The Tube Shack is “extremely excited” that it will be opening on June 27.
But he said that because of the provincial guidelines around mass gatherings due to the ongoing health emergency, just 20 tubers will be released on the river every 30 minutes, with customers having to book in advance online through the company website.
“We have to make sure our plan is fluid and up to date with WorkSafe BC and Island Health requirements as the pandemic progresses, but we feel we can manage numbers and keep both our employees and customers safe through the new COVID-19 measures,” Frisby said.
“Tubes will have to be cleaned and transported in a separate vehicle from passengers at the end of their tubing adventure, as well as shuttle capacities halved as part of the attempts to maintain social distancing. With customers booking online, we will be more than prepared for their arrival, have equipment ready for them as soon as they get to The Tube Shack, with minimum interaction with our staff and eliminating lineups altogether.”
Although some services will be unavailable this season due to the pandemic, Frisby said The Tube Shack has come up with some alternatives.
“With the reduced capacity of our shuttles, we obviously won’t be able to provide a shuttle-only service for those bringing their own tubes as well as our staff not being able to hold customers’ car keys while they float, so we have ordered a large amount of dry bags to strap to their tubes to hold personal belongings to combat this issue,” he said.
“The Tube Shack would like to thank the Town of Lake Cowichan for their willingness to listen and react during these difficult times, and supporting local small businesses.”