Cable park proposal worries water-ski club

There’s a water fight brewing over watersport access at Albert Dyck Park.

Jarris Neufeld of Abbotsford competes in the slalom during the Canadian Water-Ski Championships at Albert Dyck Park last summer. Local water-ski enthusiasts are concerned that a new cable park proposal could displace them from the local site.

There’s a water fight brewing over watersport access at Albert Dyck Park.

Last week, Dave Miller of the Fraser Valley Water Ski Club (FVWSC) circulated an email soliciting support to “save water-skiing in Abbotsford.” The cause of his concern is a series of proposals from companies seeking to construct a cable park at Walmsley Lake, a former gravel quarry at the centre of Albert Dyck Park, located in southwest Abbotsford near the airport.

A cable park features a permanent overhead cable system to pull water-ski/wakeboard riders via an electric motor, as opposed to being towed behind a boat as in the traditional version of the sport.

Cable skiing/wakeboarding is popular in Europe, and is slowly gaining popularity in North America. There are only a handful of cable facilities in Canada.

“It’s a different sport altogether,” said Miller, an Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame inductee in 2007 who has won slalom titles in boat-powered water skiing at the Pan American Games and the World Championships. “A cable pulls you around, so the whole dynamics of the way you would ski is different.”

Mark Taylor, general manager of Abbotsford’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department, confirmed that three private companies have expressed “unsolicited interest” to the city about operating a cable park at Albert Dyck Park.

But Taylor said significant infrastructure upgrades would be required of an operator – expanded parking, washroom and changing facilities, along with exit points from the water and walkways around the lake. Taylor estimated that work could cost in the neighbourhood of $2 million.

“For cable wakeboarding to come here and have potentially hundreds of people in the park on a weekend, they would have to provide a higher level of service amenities with their proposal,” said Taylor, noting that the process was still in the preliminary stages.

“With a boat, you pick people up in the water and take them back to the dock. With cable wakeboarding, they have to walk back around the lake.

“We’ve put forward to them (the interested parties) the things they have to take care of, and they have to decide if it’s a business plan they would like to present back to staff, and then ultimately, council.”

Miller, a founding member of the FVWSC, spearheaded an effort to convince the City of Abbotsford to convert the gravel pit into a permanent water ski facility back in 1995. The man-made lake was used for the Western Canada Summer Games that year, and has hosted many professional tours and provincial and national events since.

The FVWSC has constructed outbuildings at the park to house their equipment. They lease the property from the city.

Miller met with one of the potential cable park operators to see if they could coexist with the FVWSC at the site, but was told it wouldn’t work logistically.

“Because they would put all these obstacles in there, ours would just be in the way of theirs – our jump and slalom course and all that,” Miller said. “We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with a cable park. We’re just saying you have to go do it somewhere else. This is what we do.

“It’s like taking hockey players out of the rink because we want to be full-time figure skating or something.”

Since making his appeal for support last week, Miller has received more than 100 letters from water ski enthusiasts from all over the world.

“They’re coming in from France, Switzerland, South Africa, the U.S., South America,” he said. “People have been here from all over the world, and they know of the lake.

“I don’t believe that the city or council will support it, but we’re just sort of getting our ammunition ready, because they’re going to present it to council.”

Miller said there’s no other location locally for the water ski club to set up shop.

“We’d be done,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate thing.”

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