Prospective inflatable water park triggers debate

RM of Gimli councillors Richard Petrowski (from left), Thora Palson and Peter Holfeuer vote on a motion during a council meeting in Gimli on Feb. 27. Nathan Liewicki / Interlake Spectator

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GIMLI — Nearly six months after the previous RM of Gimli council approved an inflatable water park proposal on Lake Winnipeg, there was strong debate about it amongst members of the new council at its meeting on Feb. 27.

On the table was a motion to give Dana DesRochers, who proposed the water park to the previous council, until the summer of 2020 to open.

On Sept. 12, 2018, the old council, which included current councillors Thora Palson and Richard Petrowski, approved Desroches’s proposal to open said water park this coming summer. 

There were, however, six provisions Deroches agreed to abide by to open the park: That the RM approve the booth located on the beach; that all equipment and life jackets be CSA approved; that all life guards are certified; that the water park does not interfere with the Harbour Authority or Harbour Operations; that proof of adequate insurance coverage naming the RM of Gimli in the insurance policy for the water park be provided prior to operation of the water park; and permission must be provided from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The motion was approved 2-1, with Palson and Petrowski voting in favour of granting the extension and councillor Peter Holfeuer opposing it. Mayor Lynn Greenberg was absent as was Coun. Cody Magnusson, who is on a four-month leave of absence.

Holfeuer made sure his fellow councillors heard his point loud and clear.

“I really don’t recommend we approve this,” Holfeuer said. “I don’t think this is a step forward, I think it’s a step backwards and we have to get our aquatic centre a chance to get on its feet. This doesn’t make sense to me.”

He pointed out that the Gimli Aquatic Centre — a 175,000 gallon facility with a 25-metre, six-lane main tank, three water slides, a lazy river, kiddie pool, multiple geysers and spray features — opened in 2018, but accumulated approximately $61,000 in revenue compared to its estimated $100,000 operating deficit.

RM of Gimli councillor Peter Holfeuer speaks against an inflatable water park that received an one-year opening extension from summer 2019 to 2020 during a council meeting in Gimli on Feb. 27. Nathan Liewicki / Interlake Spectator

“Last year was a hot summer, it should have been a good summer to get patrons coming to the aquatic centre,” Holfeuer added. “The floating water park is something that would be happening down at the beach … I honestly believe that type of water park will attract and take away from the Aquatic Centre.”

“I think it’s a huge mistake. Why would we build an Aquatic Centre and then right away allow another individual to open up another water park structure, even if it is on the lake and insured,” he continued. “We’re going to be struggling even more with the Aquatic Centre and our debt will increase.”

Palson and Petrowski disagreed with Holfeuer, even though Petrowski understands an inflatable water park could result in more financial woes for the RM through less Aquatic Centre usage.

“I don’t think the municipality should be competing against private businesses, or standing in the way of them getting a chance,” Petrowski said. “The more things to do in Gimli the better it is for everyone. I don’t disagree that it definitely may affect the bottom line of our pool.”

Palson expressed a similar stance.

RM of Gimli councillor Thora Palson speaks in favour of an inflatable water park that received an one-year opening extension from summer 2019 to 2020 during a council meeting in Gimli on Feb. 27. Nathan Liewicki / Interlake Spectator

“This water park will compliment the other water features that our town has,” she said. “The entry fee is substantially higher than entry to our pool and the activity, in my opinion, is geared to a different age group that’s not necessarily the same age group that is looking to spend the day in the pool.”

“I see a great potential partnership working with Ms. Desrochers. I think having this unique lake water park feature in our town is another attraction that makes Gimli a destination, as well as an additional-use summer employment opportunity,” Palson continued. “I think it’s another great incentive for our young people to get their lifeguard certification.”

Despite council approving the motion, Holfeuer was still left with a multitude of questions, mostly related to safety.

“When can you keep it there? All day and all night?” he asked. “What happens in a big storm?”