A new river tubing business in theBuckhorn area is making a big splash with tourists this summer.
But as Greg Davis reports, a request by Ontario Parks may deflate Kawartha Tubing for good.
A leisurely float down the Mississaua River is making waves at Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park near Buckhorn.
In June Derek Robertson launched Kawartha Tubing – an attraction which became an overnight hit with tourists with up to 200 bookings daily.
Robertson: It’s just became something that’s blossomed – people love water, people love the Kawarthas. They come here to enjoy nature. This is the southern tip of the Canadian Shield; people want to see it.
But provincial park officials says the tubing popularity has inflated traffic and congestion in the parking lot and along on County Road 36 and creating safety risks.
In early July Robertson agreed with park officials to reduce the number of tubes on the river from 24 to 12 every half hour.
Smith: “We’re committed to balancing the recreational experiences with the protection of the park’s natural environment in a safe way and in a safe manner.”
Robertson: “They’re floating down a lazy river, walking back on a granite rock – I honestly don’t think it’s hurting the environment.”
But Robertson says Kawartha Tubing will be sunk by the park’s other new demands: Have at least 2 more staff be at the exit and entry points on the river and offer alternate parking or off-site transportation. The park also asked that all users wear a life-jacket. Currently users under 12 must wear it.
Robertson: “The numbers don’t make any sense and they’re going to force us out of business.”
Last December Robertson received permission to set up in the park and he said he was met with skepticism from officials and some area residents. Some residents have launched an online petition.
But Robertson said Smith rejected an offer of revenue sharing as a partial compromise.
Robertson: “Kayak renters and canoe renters in other parks that do this, the park gets a piece of their rental agreement. i’d agree to do that but he said we didn’t have enough time to that nor was he interested in doing that.”
Robertson says the local economy will also take a hit if his business goes under. he’s already refunding more than $30,000 in bookings for August alone.
Robertson: And we are helping to stimulate that economy. We employ 8 people and it’s going to be shut down tomorrow… I put a lot of work and effort into this… it’s pretty sad.
Late Monday night Kawartha Tubing posted on Facebook: “Effective immediately we can no longer rent tubes. Everyone who has pre-purchased tickets will be refunded. Sorry for the inconvenience.”