FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. — Memorial Day Weekend 2020 marks the restart of whitewater and zipline operations in West Virginia after shutdowns because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning on Friday and continuing into Monday, about 300 people had whitewater rafting trips booked with one outfitter, Adventures on the Gorge located in Lansing.
“There’s going to be a lot more customer service and there will always be a whiff of bleach in the air around the rafts and the life jackets and things,” said Roger Wilson, CEO of Adventures on the Gorge, of the changes made to limit COVID-19 spread.
Also reopening at Adventures on the Gorge was fishing plus retail and restaurant operations.
In the immediate weeks ahead, Wilson was not expecting a rush of customers.
“People will just have to make that transition from staying at home and avoiding people to stepping outdoors and it is a transition,” he said.
Heading into the Memorial Day Weekend, West Virginia remained under a “Safer At Home” order which encouraged people to remain at home when possible, limit exposure to crowds, wear face masks in public and frequently wash their hands.
Face masks were required to be worn upon arrival and aboard transport buses at Adventures on the Gorge.
Bus passengers, typically up around 55, could not top 18.
Instead of eight people in a raft, the new limit was six with one guide.
Groups from different areas were prohibited from being mixed together for trips.
Additional sanitation steps were planned for all equipment used for both whitewater rafting and ziplining.
Group limits were set at six for ziplines.
That equipment was being stored in a room with ultraviolet light.
“I’d rather not do that because it’s a little bit too depressing,” Wilson said when asked to estimate the financial losses for Adventures on the Gorge because of the pandemic closures.
“Normally, we’d have started operations on April 1st and we would have had some really big weekends all through May and now we’re just starting on what would have been the first major weekend of the year,” Wilson said.
Wilson said, even in the pandemic, though, one thing had not changed in terms of the experiences Adventures on the Gorge provides.
“The river’s the river,” he said. “It’s beautiful, wild and free.”