In a matter of months, Abbotsford’s Valley Wake Park will be no more.
The attraction, located at Albert Dyck Park, is set to be dismantled soon after the park’s license was not renewed by the City of Abbotsford.
Valley Wake Park officially opened in June 2013 and originally secured a five-year lease of the site from the city. Since the expiry of that lease, there has been a month-to-month agreement in place.
The park features a pair of cable systems powered by electricity that drives users on their wakeboard, wakeskate, waterski or kneeboard over a variety of kickers, boxers and rails on the lake.
James Balzer, one of the owners of Valley Wake Park, said his facility is extremely unique and there is nothing similar to it in the Pacific Northwest. He noted the closest similar park is located in California and there are others in Ontario and Quebec.
Balzer said a breakdown in communication led to the city deciding to move on. He also said that he doesn’t think it’s fair that the city is forcing him to dismantle the park in the middle of the winter.
“I feel it’s super unreasonable to have us out of the park in the middle of January where we have to go swimming and take it down,” he said. “Now I have to go out of pocket and bring in infrastructure to get everything and pay for divers to help and everything. If I’m allowed to remove all the stuff in the spring when it’s not three degrees out I can do it myself.”
Alex Mitchell with the City of Abbotsford confirmed to The News that Valley Wake Park will no longer be a part of what is offered at Albert Dyck Park. She said the agreement with Balzer and his group ended in 2017. Mitchell stated that Abbotsford is looking at other ways to use the space.
“With increased public demand for outdoor recreation space due to Abbotsford’s growing population, combined with the impacts of COVID-19, the City is considering options for how the park, which has the City’s only swimmable lake, can be utilized for wider community enjoyment,” she said.
Valley Wake Park hosts the annual Wakeboard Nationals every summer and hosted competition at the B.C. Summer Games in the past. He noted that cable wakeboarding was set to debut at the B.C. Summer Games this year and be hosted by Valley Wake Park, but that was delayed due to the pandemic. Balzer said removing the park will be a big loss to the community.
“The majority of people that ride on the cable park are not Abbotsford residents,” he said. “They’re coming from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland to come out and spend their money in Abbotsford.”
He said that Valley Wake Park is also helping to build the future of the sport, as other lakes such as Cultus are far too busy to handle the sport.
Balzer said another factor is that for many years his group and the people he employs have almost become caretakers of the lake. When groups act hostile or rowdy, Valley Wake Park employees are there to prevent any sort of escalation. He fears that without his group there Albert Dyck Park could become a less-than-pleasant place for users.
“It can be a really rough crowd when we’re not there to regulate the beach,” he said. “It can become pretty hostile and we’ve called the cops often just to do a walk through to calm everything down. There’s no oversight at the park, they don’t have a lifeguard on duty and it can be dangerous. We created a professional presence at the lake and took care of it.”
He said ideally he would like one last summer to let the public know this is the last chance to experience Valley Wake Park, but that doesn’t appear likely to happen as he has been told he has a deadline of March 1 to completely move out.
He added that he will be looking for a new home for the park and he believes other communities will be interested in what the park has to offer.