Birch Bay Waterslides to undergo refurbishment, remain closed for 2024 season


Birch Bay Waterslides won’t be open this summer as its operating permit remains suspended following a serious injury at the end of last season. Water park management is planning a full refurbishment and hopes to reopen summer 2025. 

Water park manager Iain Buchanan confirmed to The Northern Light that the park would be closed this season. 

“We are getting too far into the season,” Buchanan said. “It became too difficult, if not impossible, to get everything done in a timely manner and it’s not something we wanted to rush.”

Buchanan said water park management wants to take a step back this summer and look at a full refurbishment, which would likely include new slides and attractions. The project may be phased or the park may “see some things really go,” he said.

“We are a 40-year-old park and we actively celebrate that,” he said. “We’re really looking at this as a springboard into the future.”

Season ticket holders will be notified by email about refunds soon, Buchanan said, adding there are a lot of variables with refunds, such as when the tickets were purchased. The website will have updates as they are available, Buchanan said.

The facility has submitted operation and maintenance records needed to start the process of having its permit reinstated. The Whatcom County Health and Community Services (WCHCS) sent a compliance agreement to the water park April 12 outlining the code violations the water park needs to remedy and other requirements to reopen, such as having an engineer inspect slides’ fasteners and exterior surfaces. 

Once the water park has completed everything in the agreement, WCHCS will inspect the facility within two weeks of a proposed opening date to confirm all criteria have been met. 

Birch Bay Waterslides shut down a week before its season ended, on August 25, 2023, following a 43-year-old man being seriously injured while going down the Hairpin slide. The man’s legs went through a splash guard on the fourth turn, causing significant lacerations to both legs. Incident reports obtained by The Northern Light describe the man’s left heel as being almost completely off and lower right leg, from the foot to knee, as sliced to the muscle and bone. 

The man was flown from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham to ICU at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where he was discharged nearly two weeks later on September 7.

WCHCS visited the park on August 29 and issued citations for the existence of an imminent hazard caused by the broken splash guard, failure to monitor and properly maintain recordkeeping, and failure to provide documentation of emergency response training. 

The county health department fully suspended the park’s operating permit in early September after the park failed to provide inspection records. The water park submitted the records March 8, according to WCHCS spokesperson Marie Duckworth. 

“We wanted to make sure we had all of the information they had requested, located in different areas on different computers,” Buchanan said. “We communicated with the health department along the way that we felt it was best, instead of piecemeal it, to put it all together and hand it to them in its entirety.”

Under the conditions to reopen, Birch Bay Waterslides is required to hire an engineer to inspect structural integrity throughout the park, including all fasteners holding slide decks and splash guards together, support structures, and the interior and exterior of the slides. WCHCS also directed that an engineer pay special attention to previously repaired damage found immediately below the point of failure.

Birch Bay Waterslides is required to submit a self-inspection plan that would include a detailed inspection schedule, a list of items required to be inspected, and maintenance documentation. The water park must also fix its code violations. 

The agreement sets out more stringent requirements than state regulations, which only requires water parks to submit maintenance and operation records to local health jurisdictions upon request, putting full trust in water parks that routine inspections and maintenance are done. However, before each season starts, WCHCS will require Birch Bay Waterslides to submit a complete engineering report to the health department and Whatcom County Building Services, as well as submit self-inspection and maintenance records to WCHCS.

Failure to comply could cause the water park’s permit to be temporarily suspended, according to the agreement. 

The attorney for the man who was injured didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A lawsuit against Birch Bay Waterslides was filed for the incident in Whatcom County Superior Court on May 9.

Birch Bay Waterslides typically opens for weekends after Memorial Day Weekend and then fully opens late June through Labor Day Weekend. 

“I would like to reassure the public that we are doing our best to come back bigger, better and greater in 2025, to our best ability,” Buchanan said.  

This article was updated on May 14 to correct information about the lawsuit filed in Whatcom County Superior Court. We regret the error. 


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