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Making waves: Proposed cable watersports facility faces opposition by Abbotsford club

An aerial photo shows the proposed location of a new cable system at Abbotsford
An aerial photo shows the proposed location of a new cable system at Abbotsford's Albert Dyck Memorial Park.
— image credit: Submmited

Kevin MILLS and Dan KINVIG

Abbotsford News

A proposal to create a cable-driven watersports facility at Abbotsford’s Albert Dyck Memorial Park has run into opposition.

Council decided Monday not to voice official opinion on the plan, which is being opposed by the Fraser Valley Water Ski Club. The concept has been referred back to the parks and recreation commission.

Parks manager Mark Taylor presented the idea to council.

A cable park would feature a permanent overhead cable system to pull waterski/wakeboard riders via an electric motor, rather than being towed behind a boat.

Taylor noted it would be “difficult if not impossible for the cable wakeboarding component to be successful, if the current Fraser Valley Water Ski Club was utilizing boats on the lake.”

He said the cable idea was an “unsolicited, informal proposal” and wasn’t certain whether there was a successful business plan behind it at this stage. A second, similar proposal has also been received.

He asked council how staff should preceed.

“I’m all for change ... but I think, in this case, I’m not sure why we’re even looking at this,” said Coun. Henry Braun.

“I think we have to go back and do some history here. A very prominent family in our community donated, not only the lake but the land ... The key word here is that this is a memorial park, donated to the city for the benefit of the taxpayers. I do not believe this was ever intended for a commercial venture.”

One of the potential cable park operators, Stu McKeown of Cloverdale, told The News in an earlier interview that Albert Dyck Park is “an under-utilized piece of public land.”

He believes a park would be a major tourism draw.

“It would absolutely be a tourist attraction, hopefully being the first in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest,” said McKeown, who is partnering with Tyler Marchak of Abbotsford on the proposed venture.

“It would really create a family atmosphere where everybody can come down and attend, and try a new sport at a reasonable cost. It’s very similar to a ski mountain set-up.”

McKeown’s plan calls for a five-tower system which could accommodate nine riders at once, along with a smaller two-tower system with a slower tow speed for beginners. There are only two such full-sized parks in Canada currently – one in Montreal which has been operating for the past 17 years, and one that opened in July 2011 in Winnipeg.

Cable passes would cost in the neighbourhood of $25 for two hours, or $45 for the day. The east end of the lake would be reserved as a public swimming/recreation area.

McKeown pointed out that cable wakeboarding is popular with a young demographic, and has been shortlisted for inclusion at the 2020 Olympics.

“We’d expect between 50 to 125 riders per day, depending on the season and the day,” he said. “You’d peak on July and August weekends.”

Taylor told The News in December that a cable park operator would need to make significant infrastructure upgrades to the site – expanded parking, signage, locker rooms, walkways and docks, potentially costing in the neighbourhood of $2 million.

McKeown believes the work could be done for less than $2 million. If approved, his plan would see construction begin this fall.

At Monday’s council meeting, Braun said council needed to be careful, because it could send the message to potential land donors that their gifts may not be used as intended.

“I would not be in favour of pursuing this.”

Coun. John Smith said he’d talked with a member of the Dyck family and the intent was for public use.

“My view is we should probably kill this deal today,” said Smith.

Instead of defeating the proposal, council chose to refer it back to the commission for further investigation.

The park was donated to the city by the Dyck family and Valley Rite Mix/Lafarge in 1979. Originally a gravel pit, the excavation resulted in the creation of a man-made lake. It has been used as a water ski venue since the mid-1990s. The water ski club currently has a lease until the fall of 2013.

Lorne West, one of the founding members of the water ski club, gave a brief presentation to council, voicing the club’s concerns.

“Albert Dyck Park and the Fraser Valley Water Ski Club are a legacy of the Western Canada Summer Games ... with all due respect to the initial report ... it has not considered what that legacy has meant to the growth of the sport and what is needed to continue that growth,” said West.

He said the club has played a large role in promoting and developing the sport, including creating equipment and bringing in coaches to develop a program to help disabled people water ski, encouraged the rise in popularity of wakeboarding and promoting activity.

“Abbotsford has long been seen as a leader in water sports and I hope that you will continue to be.”

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