Kamloops first annual float the river, Facebook.

Kamloops residents concerned over river floating event amid COVID-19

About 800 people are interested in the open invitation to float down the river

  • Jul. 28, 2020 10:30 a.m.

-Kamloops This Week

Valleyview residents are concerned about an event floating around on Facebook.

Dubbed the city’s first annual Float the River, the public event is essentially an open invitation to float down the Thompson River on Aug. 8, beginning at the Valleyview Boat Launch.

The event has no organizer but states “everyone and anyone” is welcome. About 80 people have confirmed attendance online, but more than 800 have indicated they are interested.

“The people of Valleyview are like, ‘Uh, no,’” area resident Michelle Graf told KTW.

Residents are concerned about two issues — a large gathering in an era of COVID-19 and the traffic nightmare the event could cause on Thompson Drive near the Valleyview boat launch, already an area of concern during summer months.

Restrictions on gatherings in British Columbia to curb spread of the novel coronavirus currently limit events to 50 people.

READ MORE: Kamloops business owners say ‘rude, unruly’ customers need to start following COVID rules

Graf said even if a quarter of the people who have indicated interest or confirmed attendance showed up, the numbers would be well beyond that limit. She said residents would like to see the event cancelled or restricted in some ways, in order to ensure physical distancing is followed.

The event was reported to the city’s bylaws department, which is looking into the matter.

The city’s acting CAO Byron McCorkell said floating happens on the river every year and the city is not involved with what happens on the water, but it does monitor entry points, such as the Thompson boat launch. McCorkell said issues with parking have sprung up in the past. He said staff are looking into the event.

“We would obviously suggest it’s not the greatest idea,” McCorkell said.

Coun. Dale Bass, who is deputy mayor while Mayor Ken Christian is absent, is concerned about the event. She said it is not clear how attendees will physical distance while setting up for the event in a small area. Although organizers have said they will practise physical distancing, she also worries that organizers don’t know how many people will show up.

“I think it’s just one of those moments where we have to exercise extreme caution and be aware of the fact that we’re rapidly, it appears, heading back into a time when we need to really worry about the incidents of COVID cases in B.C.,” Bass said.

“And we really don’t want to see that happen here in Kamloops.”

The event description notes significant space on the river and asks people to respect physical distancing rules and regulations.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that outdoor spaces are generally safer than indoor spaces. However, the boat launch and parking area are limited in space and concerns persist around the number of people and vehicles jammed into that location at one time.

Whoever organized the event seems to acknowledge the event may be skirting the rules, with a post telling people to keep a copy of the event details.

“Everyone screenshot the details as this is an unhosted event this year and could or could not disappear,” a post from Monday reads.

The event also has two different Facebook pages.

Graf pointed to young people looking for a place to party and is concerned about flareups in the Okanagan.

As a teacher, she said she wants to go back to school and teach in the classroom this fall, but worries events like these will prevent that from happening.

“Go party somewhere else,” Graf said.

“We’ve done a good job behaving in our town.”

KTW reached out to Interior Health for comment, which told this newspaper it had flagged the event with public health.

READ MORE: Taxpayer-funded, two-drink maximum gets nod from Thompson-Nicola Regional Board

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