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Waterski event organizer updates Lake Placid board

Mirror Lake Watershed Association voices opposition

January 7, 2014
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Village board members are moving ahead with plans to host a waterski event on Mirror Lake, and they asked the organizer Monday, Jan. 6 to institute measures to isolate the competition area for safety reasons.

Meanwhile, Mirror Lake Watershed Association officials have announced opposition to the proposed Eastern Region Water Ski Championship regional qualifier, sanctioned by the American Water Ski Association. The event would be slated for Wednesday, July 30 to Sunday, Aug. 3, plus a couple of days before and after the competition for setup and cleanup. This falls between two huge, popular events: the Ironman triathlon on July 27 and the Can-Am Rugby tournament Aug. 1-3.

During Monday's regular meeting, event organizer John Wilkins updated the village board on his progress, saying American Water Ski Association officials will meet Saturday during their East Region winter meeting in Pennsylvania to discuss bids before picking a host city.

Article Photos

Waterski tournament organizer John Wilkins, right, updates the Lake Placid village board Monday, Jan. 6 on his proposed event for Mirror Lake this summer.
(Photo by Andy Flynn)

"We've been working very diligently on the planning aspects of the event," Wilkins said. "We've had a group of officials here in early December. We were out on the ice and looking at the layout of the slalom course and the jump area."

In December, village board members gave Wilkins conditional approval for hosting the event on Mirror Lake prior to his bid but have not yet signed a contract since Lake Placid hasn't officially been chosen as the host site. The three-event competition would involve slalom, jump and tricks in a 1,000-foot-long area on Mirror Lake.

"People will be enthralled by waterski jumping," Wilkins told the board. "I think it's going to be very popular, and if I had to guess, at the end of the tournament your biggest concern for next year is how do we get more waterski jumping."

Not everyone at Monday's meeting shared Wilkins' enthusiasm for a waterski competition on Mirror Lake. MLWA Chairman Bill Billerman sent Wilkins a letter with concerns and reiterated the group's position. All but one member of the association is opposed to the event.

"With the amount of activity that is on the lake right now, it all has an accumulative effect," Billerman said. "The day before this starts to get ramped up is the Ironman, and then we have this tournament, and then we have a accumulative effect from the amount of use the lake gets now by everybody."

Billerman said Wilkins has provided a thorough fact sheet addressing safety and environmental concerns, but there's more to consider.

"In the bigger picture, Mirror Lake is getting usage, and that's great, but is it too much at some point?" Billerman said. "That's a lot of activity. ... I just think it's going to have a negative effect on the recreational use of the lake at that point."

The tournament would run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with about 40 trips per hour for the slalom (360 total). There will be about 80 trips for the tricks and 150 for the jumps. That doesn't include practice time for the jump competition. For slalom and tricks, practices are expected to be held on other bodies of water.

Wilkins has addressed concerns such as boat washing to combat the transfer of invasive species, noise levels, wakes from the motorboats and safety.

Village Trustee Peter Holderied asked him Monday if it was possible to put floats on the water delineating the area of competition, which would reduce the wakes outside the waterski area and clearly mark the boundary for other people trying to use the lake. Mirror Lake is a popular destination for people using stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, rowboats and pedal boats.

"I'd really like to see this part of the agreement," Holderied said. "There's more people on the lake now, John. It's not like it was 20 years ago."

Wilkins said he is looking into the float-barrier proposal; however, he hasn't yet found a cost-effective way to install it.

"If it's something that's affordable for me to do, I'm happy to do it," Wilkins said. "If it's something that turns out to be not affordable, that makes it a little tough."

Wilkins said there's a history of waterski tournaments on Mirror Lake. He pointed to his experience running 20 waterski competitions there, adding that there were other waterski tournaments prior to his involvement, including the 1952 nationals.

"We never, ever had a problem," Wilkins said.

Trustee Jason Leon concurred with Holderied and suggested that if Wilkins plans to hold more waterski tournaments on Mirror Lake in the future, the expenditure for a float-barrier system would be a "worthwhile investment."

Mirror Lake Boat Rental owner Greg Borzilleri runs his business at 1 Main St., across the street from High Peaks Resort. He told village board members he's seen the amount of non-motorized boat traffic double on Mirror Lake in the past two decades.

"I see it as a safety concern. I see it as an impact on business. I see it as an environmental concern," Borzilleri said. "I'm all for having events that fit. ... I don't see this as a fit for Mirror Lake. I see this as a great fit for Lake Flower (in Saranac Lake), where there's motorboats allowed normally. On Mirror Lake, there's not normally motorboats allowed. ... We can go back to, 'We've had it in the past,' but things change."

Mayor Craig Randall suggested that MLWA officials work with Wilkins to alleviate concerns as the event moves forward.

"I think what we're trying to do is create opportunities where we can use our public waterways appropriately while at the same time not creating a bigger monster down the road," Randall said. "That's one of the reasons I think we can incorporate the watershed's participation and involvement, if possible."

The mayor said board members are working toward a point where they have an agreement that authorizes the use of Mirror Lake for the waterski event and sets the conditions.

"I think our interest is the event take place and we make sure we've been responsible and address the issues, and I think you're working toward that," Randall told Wilkins.

"It's a successful event if it's successful for everybody," Wilkins replied.



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