Like most folks who’ve been bitten by the water ski bug, I dreamed of having my own lake and when I met my life partner Harald, an elite slalom skier, my search began in earnest. By a combination of good timing and good luck, I was able to make that dream come true in the spring of 2014. Here is the backstory.
Acquiring the property
I was born and raised in Welland and my longtime local ski buddy, Andy Jackson, pointed me in the direction of a 29 acre piece of farmland in Port Colborne with a large pond on it (half the length of a water ski lake). I contacted the farmer who owned it and after some back and forth negotiations that lasted about a year, I was lucky enough to acquire the property.
Before making the offer, I spoke to the city planner to make sure that I could dig the other half of the lake and be able to water ski on it. Fortunately a pond can be dug on farmland in this region with no permit needed and no size restrictions. We could also ski on it for our own personal use. So we were good to go!
Digging the lake
The original pond, which was dug in the 1970’s for the fill for a nearby overpass, was 1000 feet long by 300 feet wide and 4-8 feet deep. The soil on the property is heavy clay. I hired a contractor to dig another 800’ by 160’ section to extend the pond to 1800’ long. (It’s a little on the short side for a slalom lake, but we are limited by the property line on the north end and environmentally protected bush on the south end.)
The new section was dug dry and has an 8’ flat bottom with 1-5 slopes and we decided to include a turn island at the north end. The island and the banks around it have been fortified with filter cloth and rocks to prevent erosion. It was less expensive to leave the dirt from the dig than to have it hauled away, so we were left with an earth mound on the west side of the lake that provides privacy and wind protection.
A berm was left between the original pond and the new dig and when the excavation was completed, a channel was carved into it to allow the water from the old section to drain into the new one. (We do believe that the pond has some underwater springs feeding into it.) The last step was having an excavator dig out the berm leaving us with a perfect north/south lake ready to ski on!
Developing the site
There were other major things needed to develop the site such as the gravel driveway and parking area, the boat launch, judges tower, starting dock and electrical service. And of course there is the challenge of trying to coax grass to grow in this heavy clay soil! The list goes on and I am constantly thinking of ways to improve the site.
In order to run a ski club and school on the site, I needed to apply for a zoning change to allow for a commercial use. I won’t go into the boring details on this, but it involved consultants, applications, studies, public meetings, council meetings, etc. It took about 3 years and it was very expensive and stress inducing. At the end of the day though, I was able to get it passed with unanimous approval from Port Colborne city council and thus, the Greater Niagara Water Ski Club was born.
I’m looking forward to building up the club members and the participants in the ski school. I’m also hoping to run some grassroots clinics this summer and maybe a day camp in the future. I will continue to host tournaments and work on improving the overall experience at T’s Pond.
The whole process of building this site from scratch has been a labour of love for myself, Harald and Andy. It is truly our “Happy Place”.