Group forms to inform public, fight wakeboard project
MONROE - A group of residents against a proposed wakeboard park at Lake Tye met last week to see if there is a way to relocate the project to another venue, and to educate the community about the city’s plans for the lake.
The 67-acre park includes a 40-acre lake, a walking and biking trail, bathrooms, playing fields and a playground. If the City Council approves the project, a wakeboard park could be added to the list of attractions there.
The city has held two public hearings on the wakeboard park idea, receiving quite a bit of fire from Monroe residents for considering the idea, proposed by Sammamish-based H3O Development.
Wakeboard park opponents mainly oppose the idea because they say it’s inappropriate to use a taxpayer-funded park for a private company to turn a profit. There are also concerns about noise, traffic, safety, the environment and whether or not H3O is strong enough to succeed in the venture.
The proposal and public hearings haven’t been advertised enough, said Diane Elliott, Monroe resident and wakeboard park opponent. She said she wouldn’t be surprised if two thirds of the residents of the Fryelands — the neighborhood closest to the lake — don’t know about the potential wakeboard park.
Fryelands residents aren’t the only ones who would be affected, she added. The entire city needs to be aware because everyone in the city pays taxes to support parks like Lake Tye Park.
Jeff Rasmussen felt the same way when he started a Facebook page for people to voice their concerns about the park. “No Wake in Lake Tye” has about 45 followers. They were invited to a meeting at the Monroe Library on Monday, Feb. 13 to find a way to “Save Lake Tye” — which they’ve printed on bumper stickers in recent months — from what they consider a hasty city decision.
Greg Dick and Brad Smith, the owners of H3O, have said they want to open the park as quickly as possible. The city has set a goal of opening the park sometime in 2013.
Existing uses at the lake include a public swimming beach, fishing access and plenty of room to kayak and row. The city says these existing uses will be unaffected, or at least still available. But No Wake in Lake Tye bemoans the fact that boat traffic will be siphoned through a 66-foot-wide channel to travel from one end of the lake to the other, and believes fishermen will be crowded out by the wakeboard park’s cable towers.
The group pored over pictures of wakeboard parks and the city’s plans, as well as alternatives found in other cities. They said adding kayak rentals would be a noninvasive, low-key alternative.
They’ve learned wakeboard parks are usually built from an empty lot, not added to an existing lake. They’ve also learned how long it usually takes to build — several years, Elliott said.
The successful ones also have companies backing them with at least $1 million in liquid funds, Rasmussen said.
“In addition to cash, they say that what you need is experience,” he said. “H3O has no experience.”
The company has never built anything, and the owners’ backgrounds are in sales. Further, they let their business license expire for a period of time last year, a mistake Rasmussen finds concerning.
“Especially when you’re negotiating a million-dollar contract, you just don’t let that happen,” he said.
He said the city is doing this for money and not giving itself time to consider alternatives.
The city will get $1,000 to $1,500 per month in rent, plus 2 percent of H3O’s gross profits, “and it’s going to go up every year,” Rasmussen said. “There’s a huge amount of money to be had for the city.”
The problem is that the city is basing its decision on speculation, not facts. He said Mike Farrell, the city’s parks director, has done a “phenomenal job” utilizing Lake Tye, booking triathlons, wakeboard competitions and remote-control boat events, but “I just don’t see that same momentum going forward” with the existence of a permanent wakeboard park structure, he said.
Trish Lautensleger agrees.
“You limit your choices once you build that park,” Lautensleger said. “We want to be able to look at other options.”
The city is branding itself as a place for adventure sports, which fits with the wakeboarding idea, but “this is one proposal. We can get more,” she said.
The company came to the city in July 2011 with the wakeboard park idea. In September, the city sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP), with an Oct. 3 deadline. H3O was the only proposal submitted, which was reviewed by a panel of four people the next week, and subjected to a public meeting the next month, a timeline Lautensleger described as “very quick.”
Rasmussen said he’d like to see the city send out another RFP after at least six months, giving more companies time to discover the lake and its possibilities.
Taxpayers will likely pay the city’s portion of the deal, which includes utility hookups, permitting and insurance and liabilities, Rasmussen fears. He said he noticed most of the people supporting the idea are not Monroe taxpayers.
No Wake in Lake Tye suggests the city look closer at alternative sites like the Cadman gravel site, which is supposed to be added to the city’s boundaries this year.
The problem there is flooding, public works director Brad Feilberg said last week in an interview with the Tribune. It floods too frequently to build a wakeboard park there, he said.
There are other sites, and other projects, No Wake in Lake Tye contends.
“There’s more options, they just take more time,” Lautensleger said. The group is aiming to stop the park from being built. In the meantime, the wakeboard park’s progress is in H3O’s hands.
The city is currently waiting to receive either an environmental checklist from H3O, a permit application, or both, Feilberg said. The permits can’t be issued without the checklist, which will be used to make a determination about the project’s impact on the environment.
If a determination of significance is made, the public will be allowed to weigh in on the scope of the environmental impact statement.
By STEPHANIE KOSONEN
Published Feb. 22, 2012