Back in 2016 when ML Blue Mountains first covered the development of a cable park in Thornbury, Ontario, it seemed we’d have a park in the near future. But as we roll into 2021 that park doesn’t feel any closer to happening. What’s a cable park, you ask?
It’s basically wakeboarding without the boat. The rider’s rope and handle are pulled by an electrically-driven cable suspended above the water. Think of it as a really fast T-Bar. It opens up wakeboarding to people who can’t afford a boat (let alone the fuel) and has huge crossover potential: If you’re into boardsports of any kind, you’ll love riding a cable park. And for those that are more into skiing, well, you can even waterski at a cable park.
Much to the chagrin of project leader Brennan Grange, getting approval from the Town of the Blue Mountains is proving difficult. There have been meetings and open houses trying to get the message out there. But there’s a lot of contention about this project, many neighbours and locals equating a wake park with the infamous Wakestock: a loud concert/party with more bikinis, bong hits and beer bottles than wakeboarding. But that isn’t what a cable park is.
“The main clientele would be young families that are into outdoor recreation,” says Grange. “It will be focused on wakeboarding.” Then there are the environmentalists claiming the cable park’s ponds will completely drain Indian Brook, leading to a total fish cull. But that isn’t the problem either; the amount of water the park will use is negligible. And the MNR has already signed off on the water usage for the park.
The real holdup, the one that environmentalists and probably neighbours fearing noise complaints should look into, is the fact that the Town wants to use this as “employment land.”
“The subject lands are comprised of individual lots, blocks and municipally-owned rights-of-way that were initially created as an industrial plan of subdivision in 1981, Plan 1035,” says Nathan Westendorp, Director of Planning and Development Services for the Town.
Employment lands are designated for industry, warehousing, office space. In other words: ugly, concrete industrial buildings and parking lots. So Grange continues to jump through hoops, commissioning studies and reports, getting permits and patiently waiting for the Town to grant permission to move forward. It’s a slow process. But Grange remains optimistic.
“I’m pretty sure anyone that is against the cable park is not for an industrial commercial park,” he says. “Big-box buildings, high fences, ‘no trespassing’ signs. We’re trying to make use of a beautiful property, turn it into a recreational facility that anyone can come and use. I think this is the best use for the property.”
“I’m just looking forward to the day we can get this thing open and get some people on the water.”
This article appeared in ML Blue Mountains, winter ’21.
To the Editor:
I read with interest Colin Field’s article [see above] in Mountain Life. His bias in support of the cable park is on full display, which I suppose as “editor at large” he may be granted. I find, however, his reporting on the environmental impacts is deliberately dramatic and misleading.
To the best of my knowledge and having followed this saga for years, no one has claimed that the “ponds will completely drain Indian Brook, leading to a total fish cull.” Mr. Field then goes on to state “the amount of water the park will use is negligible.” Both of these statements are, again, both deliberately dramatic and misleading.
The Blue Mountain Watershed Trust presents an educated and researched opinion on the environmental risks posed by water being taken from Indian Brook.
Mr Field’s use of the word “negligible” (as per a dictionary definition “so small or unimportant as to be not worth considering”) to describe the amount of water taking is a clear demonstration of his bias.
I am not sure how the taking of water at the rate of 50,000 litres/day for 60 days can be described as negligible to this brook (unless one is purposefully trying to sway opinion, without considering or stating the facts).
The attached Ministry of the Environment PDF details the amounts permitted to be taken from Indian Brook and an ‘Intermittent Watercourse,’ the total of which is 100,002 litres per day. Describing this as “negligible” is irresponsible, in my opinion.
The fact that the MNR will permit the Cable Park to take this water, does not necessarily mean it is a good thing. Similarly, the fact that the proposed TCE Meaford Pumped Storage system may get approval, doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. If the article is an opinion piece—as opposed to a news story— it should be clearly labelled as such.
Brennan Grange (Bayou Cable Park) responds:
It is unfortunate that there are still some who oppose the park. Especially when their reasoning is environmental concern. The property is zoned for a much more intensive use, and we feel that this proposal is the most environmentally conservative option for developing this privately owned land.
However, more unfortunate is the fact that those who are opposed wish to remain anonymous.
I welcome anyone to reach out to me, anytime, to discuss the project. I would be happy to discuss with them in detail, and settle any questions or concerns they have. This is what I am passionate about and I am always open to talk about getting kids into sport.
Over the last five years, we have completed all of the requisite studies and reports, completed by industry professionals, hosted open houses and public meetings to hear concerns that we then moved to address, all this to ensure that there will be no negative impact(s) from the park.
In order to fill the ponds we have a few options available. The first, and best option, would depend on the timing of the approval process. If the ponds were dug and ready in time for the spring season we would be able to let nature do most of the work, capturing the meltwater (“spring freshet”) to fill the ponds.
Another option would be to use water from the on-site tributary that runs through the property (“Intermittent Watercourse”), as well as Indian Brook, and a likely realistic situation is that we would fill the ponds with a combination of these options.
On November 26, 2019 we received our Permit to Take Water (PTTW), from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks, for the initial fill and maintenance of the ponds. This permit has reporting and restrictions that we must follow in order to ensure that there are no negative impacts on Indian Brook or the surrounding environment.
The Permit allows for up to a maximum of 50,000L per day, which is roughly the flow rate of a 1/2 inch garden hose (average garden hose flow rate is 35L/min – 65L/min or 50,400L – 93,600L per day) to be taken from two sources, Indian Brook and the “Intermittent Watercourse” that runs through the property (max 100,000L per day combined).
It also states that “The Permit Holder shall use the established stream gauge and rating curve to limit the pumping rate to 5% of the flow from Source 1 (Indian Brook) at any time.”
Meaning, we are permitted to take up to 50,000L per day, as long as that amount is less than 5% of the available flow. Low water seasons would mean that we would be restricted to 5% of the available flow, which could be less than the 50,000L. This is somewhat confusing, and is the reason we asked the professionals. They have all agreed that there will be no negative impacts to Indian Brook or the surrounding environment.
This Permit has reporting and restrictions that we must follow in order to ensure that there are no negative impacts on Indian Brook or the surrounding environment.
Another thing to point out which I think may be misunderstood, is that we will only be filling the ponds one time. The facility will consist of a series of “closed loop” ponds; once full, the only water usage would be to maintain water levels due to evaporation. Which again, Mother Nature will help us with, as it does with other bodies of water each spring and through seasonal rainfall.
The total storage volume required for the ponds is 40,600m3 (40,600,000L). Over half of that, an estimated 25,100m3 (25,100,000L) can be collected from snowmelt and rainfall on the ponds each year, leaving a deficit of 15,600m3 (15,600,000L) that needs to be filled during the initial fill period. An additional 120,500m3 (120,500,000L) flows from the “Intermittent Watercourse”, a tributary that runs through the site, between September and May. A small portion of that would be captured and diverted to fill the remainder of the ponds.
The current proposed supplemental water supply source is Indian Brook, meaning it would be the last option, and likely not necessary—therefore causing little to no, or “negligible,” impact on Indian Brook.
Once the ponds are full we will only need to take water to account for loss due to evaporation. This will require less than 50,000 litres per day and therefore would not require a PTTW. We have received the PTTW regardless, and will be reporting all water taking to ensure that there are no concerns. Some fluctuation in water levels is to be expected, and will not impact the operation of the facility.
You can find more information regarding the pond construction, initial fill, and pond level maintenance on p.12 of the Surface Water Management Strategy Report prepared by C.C. Tatham & Associates, Ltd., here. You can also find other reports and studies submitted as part of our First, Second, and Third Submission materials, here on the Town of Blue Mountains website.
I encourage everyone to visit one of the straight-line cable park facilities in Ontario. See for yourself how amazing this sport and this community really is. Sometimes the real reason we are doing this gets lost in all the numbers and reports—to get kids outside having fun.