Memorial Day weekend is often known as the start of tubing season and the unofficial start to summer. While many tubing companies are re-opening, the prime season for water recreation will look different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tubing operators we spoke with said they are taking extra precautions to keep people safe as they venture out on the water while social distancing.
Some of the precautionary measures include cleaning and sanitizing shuttles and limiting shuttle rides to 10 or less people.
Haley Bonnette, co-owner of Louisiana River Adventures and Tubing in the Park in Franklinton, said guests are also required to wear masks while on shuttles and remain six feet apart.
“Our customers health and well being are our top priority while also giving them an opportunity to escape reality and enjoy a relaxing day on the river,” Bonnette said. “We are taking every measure possible to ensure the safety of all persons while also providing a safe and fun outdoor water activity.”
The company said they launched weekday operations a little earlier in the season than normal due to school closures. Bonnette said they were eager to provide a safe, healthy outdoor activity for people to enjoy while social distancing.
“It is important for people to access outdoor and water recreation during this crisis because they are able to keep distance and remain safe, but also escape quarantine for a day,” Bonnette said.
Tony Mizell, owner of Bogue Chitto Tubing Center in Bougalusa, said he’s received lots of interest and calls filled with excitement from customers hoping for a float down the river.
“They start screaming and hollering,” Mizell said. “You think they won the lottery or something!”
Mizell said most of his customers come from New Orleans and surrounding areas like Hammond and Mississippi, but he’s been getting people willing to travel from Lafayette for a tubing trip.
In addition to following guidelines, Mizell said he will also have a deputy on duty during weekends to supervise float trips.
While many tubing companies already opened in early May, Sandy Bottoms Tubing and Kayaking planned to hold off until May 15. Now, owner James Pugh said he’s ready to welcome customers this weekend after recent severe weather impacting the North Shore caused delays.
Pugh said he secured an additional vehicle to facilitate transit of smaller groups — not exceeding 10 people — and plans to disinfect vans, life jackets and tubes after use.