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Mixed reaction to waterski event

August 4, 2014
By MATTHEW TURNER ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Locals here have a mixed reaction of the waterski competition held over the weekend on Mirror Lake. Some welcomed the waterskiers back next year, and others don't believe motorized boats should be allowed on the lake.

The 2014 Eastern Region Water Ski Championship regional qualifier wrapped up on Sunday with 157 waterskiers competing. The waterskiers were pulled by boats that reached speeds of up to 30 mph during the slalom skiing, trick and jumping competitions.

Bill Billerman, chairman of the Mirror Lake Watershed Association, opposed the waterski competition prior to it coming to Mirror Lake. He said the event wasn't as loud or disturbing as he thought it would be, but "it just didn't fit right" to have motorized boats on Mirror Lake.

Article Photos

Dean Rudy, 54, of Rochester, throws up some spray during the waterski trick competition Friday afternoon, Aug. 1, on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)

"You know, I just don't think motorized vehicles should be allowed on Mirror Lake because it's going to lead to other motorized events," he said. "Human-powered recreational activities fit well with the ambiance of the village.

"I don't think that the event was very well received from people I talked to, in the sense that it was not a good time to have boats on the lake," Billerman said. "Basically, I thought it was less intrusive or invasive than I thought it would be, and that's a plus."

Billerman said the Mirror Lake Watershed Association plans to take a poll of residents around the lake and see what their opinions of the competition were.

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"I'm sure there will be some people who like it and some who don't," he said.

John Wilkins, a local attorney who organized the waterski competition, said he respects Billerman's "philosophical position" on not allowing motorized boats on the lake. Wilkins said people's fears about noisy and dangerous boats didn't turn out to be reality.

According to the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Service and Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department, there were no serious injuries resulting from the waterski competition. One waterskier did fall during the trick event, causing a pulled muscle, according to Wilkins.

Wilkins said the wave attenuation barriers on the lake reduced the wakes boats created and kept swimmers, canoers and kayakers from entering the motorboats' paths.

"The wave attenuation system worked very well," he said. "I think next year, if we are doing it again next year, we will probably include more of it at the ends of the course. I think it certainly helped with the waves."

Why not choose a lake where motorized boats are allowed, like Lake Placid?

Wilkins said Lake Placid would have been a "bad choice" because waterski events have to be in a "controlled environment" without other motorboat wakes and because it's more exposed to the weather.

"It has to be on a lake with a controlled environment, and because Mirror Lake doesn't normally accommodate motorboats, it's perfect," he said.

Lake Flower in Saranac Lake would also present a "number of challenges" for a waterski competition because of the "extremely busy boat launch site," he said.

Greg Borzilleri, owner of Mirror Lake Boat Rental, said it was a "rough weekend" for him and "everyone else trying to enjoy the lake." He rents kayaks, paddleboats, stand-up paddleboards and water bikes.

"I hope there is some significant examination of everybody's opinions of putting motorized boats on a small lake in the middle of a summer season," Borzilleri said. "There was a lot of weaving around and some boats having to dodge some kayakers, but people got out relatively unscathed. There was a lot of waves and a lot of boats bombing around Mirror Lake."

Bob Crowley, a property owner on Main Street, said the waterski competition "was run very well" and that he could barely hear the boats going by.

"The waterskiing event was a great event, and it's welcome in my opinion," he said.

Crowley said that with every event in the village, some people like it, and others don't.

"Ironman, some people love it; some people hate it," he said. "You get a different opinion in every aspect."

Wayne Johnston, a member of the Mirror Lake Watershed Association, opposes motorized boats on the lake.

"We've come a long way not to have snowmobiles and motorboats buzzing around on Mirror Lake, and some people have come to appreciate non-motorized activities," Johnston said. "Once you open the door, how do you say no to the next group?"

Johnston said he is not faulting the waterski competition, which he believed was safe and had "relatively quiet" boats.

"I'm not casting disparages on how the event was run," he said.

He said the village should seek out the right events for Mirror Lake, like more kayak events.

"It's about what we want to be and what atmosphere we want to represent to our prime-time customers," Johnston said. "Take this away from waterskiing for a second. It's about what events you want."

Mayor Craig Randall was at Mid's Park on Saturday afternoon watching the jumping competition before it began to rain.

"I just want to say that the organizers and the promoters of this event, as far as I know, are in full compliance with everything we've asked them to do," Randall said on Saturday. "It looks like we've had a pretty successful event out here this week. Other people are still out here using the lake and enjoying it, and as you can see here this afternoon, there is a significant amount of people out here just watching the waterski event."

Randall said it reminded him of around 20 years ago when people would watch the waterski events, except "it's a quieter event now" with less noisy boats.

"It's a very peaceful looking setting right now," he said.

Has he heard any recent concerns from residents around Mirror Lake?

"I think it's fair to say some of the people close to the lake expressed their concerns about hosting an event like this out here," he said. "I'll be interested in hearing their feelings after the weekend is over."

According to Wilkins, the event brought in around 250 visitors to Lake Placid. He plans to survey the competitors by asking where they ate and where the stayed. He wants to measure their economic impact.

"The skiers, across the board, were delighted to come to Lake Placid," Wilkins said. "It came off pretty well, and I got a lot of very positive feedback from senior people in waterskiing."

USA Water Ski awarded the regional race to Mirror Lake for a two-year period, Wilkins said. He plans to bring it back again next year if he receives the village board's approval.



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