By LAURIE NEEDHAM
What to do on these warm summer evenings? A visit to Fall City Community Park. I decided to see how things were “flowing” with the changes made by Fall City Community Association and the River Task Force over the past year.
First I saw the signs, alerting rafters to the river take-out trail, directing floaters to the parking lot across the bridge. At the park, the parking lot was quite full, with a row of sani-cans and trash and recycle bins conveniently located.
Then I spotted a huge semi-trailer emblazoned with “Fall City Floating”parked nearby and stacks blue and yellow tubes. A new business had popped up; I had to stop by.
I spoke with owner Simon Briant, whose love of floating led him to give up a lucrative job at payroll processing company ADP, to start his own rafting business. Fall City Floating had only been open a week when we spoke, but he said business had been brisk, thanks to an exceptionally warm June.
He’s a personable, fun loving guy and a savvy businessman, confident in himself and the success of his business. Besides the semi-trailer, which stores tools, coolers, tubes and life jackets, the business includes a kiosk Briant built, for conducting the financial and legal side of the business.
A 19-person van pulls a tube trailer, also built by Briant. The van and trailer shuttle floaters and tubes between the river put-in and take-out locations.
Carpentry has been a hobby of Briant’s and he says it was rewarding to use those skills for this project.
He’s already using Groupon to offer discounted float trips this summer.
I asked Briant about how the community had responded to his business. He’s been a member of the Fall City Community Association since January and has attended every meeting since. He and his team volunteered throughout the spring to do clean up and some landscaping on the downtown side of the river. They also do trash pickup daily at Plum 1, Plum Boat Launch and the river exit trail. While the river is definitely busier this year, there is a noticeable difference in the amount of trash lying around.
Briant’s biggest obstacle to setting up the business was getting a contract with King County to use the parking lot for his business. Negotiations started in October 2014 and went to June.
Because the park is in a floodplain, he was initially told a business there would not be possible. After a few discussions with the county’s Department of Permits and Environmental Resources, they’d agreed that if Briant put everything on wheels, he could get the green light.
Briant and his team clearly care about Fall City and want to create a better, safer, experience for floaters.
His website gives very specific guidelines about what’s expected of customers:
“Trash – there are three trash disposal and recycle points, two at the upstream entries and one at the exit. Do not discard your trash in the river. This is Seattle. We don’t do that. Our team ensures the trash and recycling disposal cans are ready for your use.
“Sanitation – Our team has provided port-a-potties in the community park. Do not use private property as your restroom. Residents are highly encouraged to call the police if floaters are seen violating this law.
“Alcohol – RCW 66.44.100 prohibits alcohol use on all Washington rivers and fisheries. While we will not rummage around your coolers (personal or rented), respect the law and general safety. Persons who are clearly intoxicated will not be allowed to rent our equipment or be shuttled for the remainder of the day. Fall City Floating is not liable for any accidents or fatalities caused by drinking on the river.
“Respect Others – This is a family activity and there are residents and children here. Loud, foul language, belligerence, intoxication, and general disrespect will not be tolerated. Be a good person and keep yourself and members of your group under control.”
Fall City Floating is a positive partner in our community and I predict that the business will attract more visitors to other businesses in town.
Fall City Floating has a total of six employees, including Briant’s fiancé Arali. They live in Mill Creek, with their dog Oreo. Arali is a school teacher, helping out until August when she starts teaching at Lake Hills Elementary.
Fall City Floating operates Wednesdays through Sundays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
For more information, visit http://fallcityfloating.com.