With lake levels on the rise, tourists are still expected to come into the city for the May long weekend.

Tourists still expected to flood into Kelowna

With parks and beaches closed around the area, May long weekend to be busy

Flooding concerns have yet to put a damper on the official start to tourist season.

“They only effect we’ve had is a lot of people calling to see if we’re flooding,” said Neil Bradley, the front desk manager of Samesun, a hostel at the south end of Kelowna.

“The media blew it up a lot in the news, so we had to reassure people that it wasn’t a problem.”

The hostel backs onto Mill Creek, and Bradley said that they didn’t have the slightest amount of flooding, and that’s exactly what they’ve conveyed to guests. It’s been enough to assuage their concerns and the hostel is booked fully for Friday and Saturday of the long weekend, with only one or two beds remaining free over the remainder of the weekend.

It’s similar news around the city.

Stan Martindale, general manager of the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre, said his staff dealt with a few cancellations and fielded a number of inquiries as the week got underway, but things are calming down now.

“All people were seeing was the worst case scenario so they’re not getting a balanced view of the city on TV or online,” he said. Martindale pointed out that the weather forecasted for the weekend is doing a lot to keep the flow of tourists up.

“It’s looking like it’s going to be 20 C to 25 C and sunny all weekend,” he said, adding that from May long weekend right until the middle of September, tourist season is in full swing.

While bookings are still going along well, there are lingering concerns with flooding.

On Thursday, the city released a list of beach closures. that included Sutherland Park, City Park, Lake Avenue Beach Access (south) to Burne Avenue Beach Access, Strathcona Park, Francis Avenue, Maude Roxby Bird Sanctuary, Kinsmen Park and Rotary Beach Park.

These closures will be in effect until the flood has passed and crews are able to remove flood barriers from parks. Signage has been posted at the parks advising of the closure.

“The flood protection measures are in place along some of Kelowna’s beaches and waterfront parks to help reduce the effect of high water levels,” said Blair Stewart, parks services manager.

“We can’t stress enough that the public should not approach, climb or jump on these pieces of equipment. We’ve made the call to close the beach areas until the flood protection measures can be removed.”

Although some beach access may be limited, Tourism Kelowna is reinforcing the message that there’s a lot more to this valley than the beaches.

“It’s certainly a busy weekend for tourism in Kelowna,” said Chris Shauf, the director of marketing and communications for Tourism Kelowna.

“Kelowna is a destination that has a lot of activities to offer. When we see things that can’t be accessed there’s still enough to fill your day and night. You can hike, bike, go downtown or shopping. We are fortunate we have so many things to do.”

Those who are lake focused are still getting their needs met, too. Jeff Patton, a co-owner of Okanagan Lake Boat rentals said they’re still getting “tons of inquiries” and are renting out boats, albeit at a slower rate than previous May long weekends.

“People are just a little leery, but basically it’s business as usual,” Patton said.

“We have a procedure guide and we’re just telling people to be extra careful and we want them to stay in the middle of the lake.”

Patton said that crews have been removing a lot of debris from the lake, but they’re telling their customers where the high water areas to stay away from are and what areas are safe.

Police, he said, are also expected to be on the lake this weekend, enforcing speed limits to reduce further lake erosion.