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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Slidewaters owners: ‘Our outrage is genuine’

By Burke and Robert Bordner For the Spokesman-Review

It’s easy for The Spokesman-Review columnist Jim Camden to dismiss outrage over the closure of Slidewaters water park as “hyperbole” (“Heated rhetoric about the shutdown orders doesn’t match reality,” July 19).

But for those of us with actual skin in the game, this is no war of words. People’s livelihoods and reputations are at stake, and we believe that’s worth fighting for.

Camden certainly wasn’t speaking for the 150 young people left unemployed by the closure of Slidewaters, our 7-acre water park nestled into the shoreline of scenic Lake Chelan.

Nor is its demise simply a technicality for our suppliers or the hundreds of local business owners who consider Slidewaters an essential economic magnet in the tourist-dependent community we all call home; or for city and county government leaders, who will undoubtedly be forced to curtail public services without the hundreds of thousands of local tax dollars generated by the park every year.

Come to think of it, this may only be good news for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, inasmuch as it represents a tremendous (though Pyrrhic) victory in the war he’s been waging against private industry since early March, when he unlawfully assumed the near-dictatorial “emergency powers” he believes the COVID-19 pandemic entitles him to.

Freedom Foundation spokesperson Ashley Varner was quite correct in comparing Inslee’s actions to those of a tyrant. The fact that – for now, at least – we still have legal options doesn’t alter the fact that he’s making life-and-death decisions based on junk science and personal hubris, while taking it as a personal affront when his orders are defied.

In his column, Camden cites flawed numbers from the state that suggest a spike in the number of COVID cases statewide and in Chelan County. But while the “reported” cases are up noticeably over what we saw in previous months, it’s also true there are vastly more test kits available these days, and vastly more people using them.

Consequently, there are more cases being identified now, but the mortality rate is still quite low – and limited almost entirely to the elderly and those with prior health conditions that put them at greater risk.

Speaking of hard facts, Camden neglects to mention that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website has concluded, “There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can spread to people through water in (water playgrounds and hot tubs).”

Slidewaters has become the poster child for what happens to those who dare resist Inslee’s heavy-handed, illegal, politically motivated COVID abatement effort. That strategy also includes a mandatory mask rule that is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Freedom Foundation – the same group representing us in our fight with the state.

Small wonder the governor was booed off the stage in late June when he ventured beyond the urban Olympia-Tacoma-Seattle liberal comfort zone to tout his COVID strategy in rural Tri-Cities.

Let’s be clear. No one is saying the COVID pandemic isn’t a serious problem. What we’re saying is that, like most problems, it’s better confronted on a local basis by those whose concern for doing the right thing is motivated by logic, sensitivity and hard science rather than wounded pride or political animus.

Combined with the comprehensive “Safe & Clean” remediation plan adopted by the park, the clean bill of health we obtained following an inspection by the Chelan-Douglas Health District and the reality that not one guest or employee contracted COVID in the month Slidewaters was open this summer, we strongly believe the burden of proof should be on the governor to prove his arbitrary, one-size-fits-all approach makes more sense.

We don’t know how this melodrama will all end, but we know God has a purpose for our lives and we pray it involves continuing to operate a business that offers clean, wholesome family recreation.

But if it doesn’t, we’ll know why. If Slidewaters is gone for good, our business and countless others will have been sacrificed on the altar of one man’s insatiable desire for power and his party’s desperation to win the next presidential election – no matter how many lives have to be ruined in the process.

Cousins Burke and Robert Bordner are co-owners of Slidewaters, in Chelan, Wash.

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