Wild Rivers lease expires, students left without jobs

Kylie Corbett

Wild Rivers Waterpark is scheduled to close permanently on Oct. 31, leaving more than 1,000 local teenagers and adults without seasonal employment.

The 20-acre park has been a fixture in Orange County for 27 years.

“The job market is pretty rough right now, [especially] for minors,” said Mike Riedel, president of Wild Rivers. “We are the largest seasonal employer in Orange County, and most of these people are not going to be able to find other jobs.”

Without a one year extension from the Irvine Company, Wild Rivers could be gone until May of 2013, when the park could possibly relocate.

The city just filed a plan to build apartments on the land that Wild Rivers currently occupies, Riedel said.

Wild Rivers officials are currently under negotiations with the city to relocate near the Great Park, but haven’t been promised anything yet, Riedel said.

There’s no doubt that that the loss of Wild Rivers will result in unemployment, Riedel said.

“Not only does it give somebody a job, but it also supports the families and kids that come to get some active recreation, in a time where people are spending more time in doors,” Riedel said. “It gets people outside in the sun, being active, which is more of a healthier way to go about it.”

The world is changing, and places that offer what Wild Rivers offers are becoming more difficult to find, Riedel said.

Rachel Goldman, 22, a recent graduate from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and psychology, believes that the atmosphere and nature of Wild Rivers are tailored to the needs of students.

“Since it’s open every day in the summer, we aren’t restricted like the typical 9-to-5 employee can be,” Goldman said. “With the season only during the summer, we don’t have to sacrifice any piece of our education for work.”

In attempts to get the community involved to help save Wild Rivers, an email was sent out encouraging citizens to contact the Irvine Company, asking for an extension with the lease.

People have been calling and showing their support for Wild Rivers, which has been both a humbling and gratifying experience, Riedel said.

“I think we are going to be missed,” Riedel said. “The email that I sent out has had over a thousand responses to it.”

Wild Rivers has not only provided recreation, but it has also employed many college students.

Derek Smith, 19, civil engineering, attends University of Arizona, but has worked at Wild Rivers for the past three summers in admissions.

“Personally, I rely on my summer employment at Wild Rivers to help provide for my college education,” Smith said. “It’s nice to know that I can come back from school and immediately begin to work without the hassle of competing with the massive inflow of college and high school students searching for new summer jobs.”

Smith knows that a closure would impact many students who depend on a summer job. They’d be unable to pay for college and other expenses, he said.

For Lindsay DeRight Goldasich, 18, human biology at University of California, San Diego, Wild Rivers has become a second home for her.

Goldasich began working at Wild Rivers when she was 14 years old.

The major loss for Goldasich will be about the connections she has made, instead of the money, she said.

“There are so many great people at Wild Rivers that love what they do and it shows. I hope that they will stay in my life,” Goldasich said. “If Wild Rivers does close, then I have absolutely no idea what I will be doing next summer.”

While there are efforts to extend the lease, there is no decision as of yet. For now, the people who have lost their summer jobs feel like they’ve been sent down the drain.

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