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Battle for the bay reaches settlement

Lauderdale skiers will move performances

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published May 3, 2007, 3:47 p.m.)

A group of neighbors who want the Lauderdale Lakes Aqua Skiers to move their performances to another part of the three-lake chain appear to have won what has been dubbed “Battle of Don Jean Bay.”

But the performance ski team has not given up its fight.

Amid stirring complaints by people who wanted the show team off the bay, Walworth County last year ordered the ski team to find a new home because the land it based its performances off of was zoned wetland. Public events and permanent structures, such as the team’s bleachers, were not permitted there.

The team reached an agreement with Lutherdale Bible Camp, on Green Lake, to launch its shows from the camp’s beach, keeping the Saturday evening performances off of the small shallow bay. Practice begins Saturday and shows start Memorial Day weekend.

“I think that’s the best place for them,” said Kurt Saari, president of the Baywood East Property Owners Association. “The concern was (the bay) is too small to conduct ski shows and ski practices. It’s dangerous.

“It’s so small that once they start to use that bay for skiing, no one else can use the bay to fish or to boat. It blocks all access to and from.”

Some homeowners on the bay had boats damaged from rocking against docks when the team’s powerful outboard motors create waves close to the piers, Saari said.

Team members, however, feel the bay is the safest and best place for doing the tricks, stunts and human pyramids.

It is secluded, has less boat traffic and has fewer natural or boat-made waves than the much larger Green Lake, said Anthony Cecola, a trustee who has been with the team since 1970.

“We were able to stay out of everyone’s way. Now we’re out on the main lake,” Cecola said. “There is no natural border or protection for the area that we’re going to use. It’ll certainly be interesting.”

The ski team won a small victory by still being able to practice on Don Jean Bay on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the summer, said Greg Twelmeyer, club president.

The team will have a pontoon dock to practice from so they will not be on the wetlands.

It is still prohibited from assembling or holding performances on the wetlands, but hopes to return by being grand fathered onto the site, Twelmeyer said.

If the team can prove it continually used the site for shows since 1974, the year before countywide zoning was enacted, it can possibly have the shows there again, Twelmeyer said.

First, the county needs evidence the team was there every year, such as dated photos, programs, old newspaper ads and similar items, said Michael Cotter, county Land Use and Resource Management director.

“It’s in someone’s basement somewhere,” Twelmeyer said of the paper trail that could potentially get the ski team back on the bay.

“Even though everyone knows we’ve been doing our shows since the ‘70s on that spot, there’s no paper trail and that’s what the county wants.”

Cotter said it would be difficult for the team to prove its performances were based on the bay every year since the early 1970s. The team briefly based its shows at Elkhorn Lake, but held some holiday shows on the bay every year.

Saari was surprised to learn the practices on the bay may continue, but said neighbors should at least be satisfied that the performances are moving to another part of the lake.

“Property taxes aren’t cheap around this lake area,” he said. “People get upset when they can’t use the lake.”

The team, which gathered hundreds of supporter from around the chain of lakes and the community last year, is appreciative to Lutherdale for giving them a new home, Cecola said.

“It’s a place of worship and we have to tread lightly,” he said. “We don’t want to wear out our welcome.”

“We are losing ground in one respect, but at least another organization stepped up and said, ‘Let’s try it over here,’” Twelmeyer said. “We’ve worked it out for a one-year trial. We’ve got this summer. Hopefully we can make it work so we’ve got a spot to call home and let this be done.”

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