A float down the Gull means business
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | May 17, 2018|
When a 15-year-old girl named Barbara McCallum first floated down the Gull River in Minden, she found her happy place. She wasn’t the first … and she certainly won’t be the last … as she and partner Rob Rutkowski hope to launch a tube rental and shuttle bus business, called Minden River Run.
Rutkowski pitched their plan at the May 10 Minden Hills council meeting. “It’s all about a fun, family experience,” he said. During his presentation, Rutkowski shared a story that his partner McCallum wrote. In it, she said her parents bought a cottage on Horseshoe Lake Road at the bottom of the rapids on Minden Lake in 1987. Her dad bought inner tubes and suggested she and her best friend go for a float.
“It was such an incredible experience, lazily floating and swimming, as the gentle current took us from the Rotary Park beach, right into downtown Minden. We laughed, we sang, we enjoyed every single moment along the way. We felt so free being surrounded by nature, and the sights and sounds of the small town,” she wrote.
There were many trips that first summer and then it became a tradition during summer visits to the cottage. Her parents sold the cottage but she came back and rented accommodation with her family. However, she and Rutkowski bought a place in 2017. The family floated down the river, “and once again we laughed, we sang, we enjoyed every single moment along the way, it was a day that none of us will ever forget. Making memories in Minden is what my life is all about.”
Rutkowki said they plan to operate the business from mid-June to mid-September. “Our goal is to provide a safe, enjoyable river tubing experience for individuals and families alike, while reducing the flow of vehicular traffic into Rotary Park.” He told councilors it will also bring business to the downtown. People would board a bus in the municipal parking lot area to Rotary Park, where a tent or gazebo would be set up. They’d get information about the day’s weather and water conditions. They would sign a waiver, read the rules, be issued a ride ticket and given a 53-inch Intex inflatable river tube, personal flotation device and a wristband as proof of purchase. Before putting in at one of two locations, a staff member with Smart Serve certification would ensure they hadn’t been drinking or were carrying alcohol. Rutkowksi said the tubes have mesh bottoms so people can’t fall through, come equipped with two handles, and can be connected for a group float. After their floats, the locals or visitors would be assisted as they got out at the government dock.
He said the shuttle would likely run every half hour between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekends. He came to council to ask if the township would allow them to set up a op-up tent close to the municipal buildings and another pop-up tent in the park, or rent out the gazebo to them in the back of Rotary Park. He asked for assistance in the cost of setting up, and operating the shuttle on a percentage basis, that the township assume the cost of setting up designated parking spaces and pay-per-use lockers so people could store their valuables while they float.
A staff report, likely from parks and recreation and roads departments, that will also address liability issues, will come to a future meeting. However, councillors seemed enthralled with the business plan. Coun. Jeanne Anthon said the concept had been discussed for decades, with nothing done, so she appreciated Rutkowski coming forward with such a detailed plan.
“This is fun,” said Coun. Pam Sayne, who suggested councillors could float down together on opening day. And while deathly afraid of the water, Coun. Jean Neville said, “I think this is really exciting and fits in with the revitalization of the downtown.” “Exciting stuff,” added Mayor Brent Devolin.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.