County approves proposed ski course on Lake Bessie

County commissioners took a vote on a request regarding a proposed slalom ski course on Lake Bessie during its March 20 meeting.

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  • | 10:22 p.m. April 13, 2018
  • Southwest Orange
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WINDERMERE – Orange County commissioners voted to authorize a request pertaining to a proposed ski course on Lake Bessie in Windermere located east of Oakdale Street during its March 20 meeting.

The approval came with certain outlined conditions, including the prohibition of using the ski course for commercial purposes.

Lakefront property owner and Windermere resident Thomas Fry – one of the two applicants behind the request – assured commissioners he intends to limit usage to only private residents.

Lakefront property owners who spoke against the installation of the proposed ski course, which would measure 902 feet long, opposed it due to concerns of increased boat traffic, potential shoreline erosion and a negative impact on lake views and local wildlife.

“Lake Bessie is the smallest lake of the Butler Chain of Lakes,” said Thomas Luka, a 30-year Windermere resident. “It is landlocked, so it is a very pristine piece of property. And I'm not opposed to people who want to do water skiing, but that lake, in my opinion, is not large enough to really justify that. … This property is pretty much a residential property and it's designed to be for the pleasure of the resident. Yes, boating is allowed on it, but only by Windermere residents and lakefront property owners. It’s not accessible to the general public … and I think residents move there because they like it to be quiet, and a ski track would attract more boat activity.”

During a presentation explaining his vision for the slalom ski course project, Fry emphasized the course would only take up less than 1% of the lake’s total surface area – an expanse of 173 acres.

“Some of the residents are concerned about the tremendous amount of boat traffic that might ensue by having the ski course, but there is no ski club, there is no ski school, and no other organization planning to use this course,” Fry said. “It’s simply not allowed by the permit.” 

Fry also argued that concerns regarding erosion and wildlife disturbance should not be a reason to oppose the ski course because the watercraft used usually produces small wakes averaging only three to four inches high. And in response to concerns about lake views, Fry added that there would be a total of 22 buoys dispersed throughout the course and the closest distance to the shoreline would be 310 feet.

“The visible portion of the course consists of the floating buoys, which are relatively unobtrusive and do not impede the view of the lake,” Fry said. “They are less visible from a distance and will be placed at a minimum of 300 feet from the shoreline.”

County staff also determined the use of the ski course’s buoys would not prohibit others from using the lake or create a navigational hazard because the buoys are made of soft plastic that can be easily pushed aside by boats, adding that the buoys are easily visible by boaters and barely noticeable from the shoreline.


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