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How Did Okeeheelee Park Come To Be?

skisprayskispray Posts: 235 Crazy Baller
On the Marcus Brown episode of The Waterski Podcast he said he thought access to water is one of the primary ways to go the sport and that the U.S. needs about another 5 Okeeheelee Parks. I knew about Okeeheelee prior to that podcast but have looked into it a bit more since then.

A county park built for recreation that has 5 ski lakes! The website for the ski club says they have 100 members or so, and on Google Maps it looks like dozens of ski boats on the dock. It does look like an incredible site.

My question is - how did it happen? How did a county park end up with ski lakes? I’d be really interested to find out more about the history and if there is anything about this setup that could be repeated. As someone living in an area without a couple options but not a ton, the idea of more places like that sounds very nice to me.


  • dchristmandchristman Posts: 1,208 Mega Baller
    Is it time to ski, yet?
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,067 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I’ve heard that the lakes evolved from trenches left behind by the construction of the Florida Turnpike which preceded construction of the park. This may be an urban legend but it would make sense.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • oldjeepoldjeep Posts: 3,754 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @lpskier - I think most "lakes" in FL are just borrow pits for construction. I know the one we go to in Ft Myers is.
    Chuck P
    Not a mechanic but I play one at home
  • Ed_JohnsonEd_Johnson Posts: 2,255
    The truth is...... "GOD wanted a place to SKI."

    Special Thanks to Performance Ski and Surf and the Denali Adam's !!!
  • thagerthager Posts: 5,138 Mega Baller
    Many years ago I saw the construction blueprints for Okeeheelee. Doubt it was accidental.
    Stir vigorously then leave!
  • BS74BS74 Posts: 43 Baller
    edited January 18
    My long time ski friend Mark Bozicevic was heavily involved in the development of Okeeheelee in cooperation with county and city officials. Google his name and you can read how it all came about. He recently received a AWSA Hall of Fame Award of Distinction for his contributions to the sport. He's a good skier and a great guy to know.
  • liquid dliquid d Posts: 1,313 Mega Baller
    Mark Bozicevic ( The Man, the Myth, the Legend! and a great skier) The Boz! Also creator of the most Prestigious title ever in skiing...The Super Swami!
  • skierjpskierjp Posts: 939 Crazy Baller
    The lakes were dug to build the turnpike. Boz was heavily involved. I believe the way the story goes the plan was to dig the lakes for the dirt but no guarantee that anyone would ever get to ski on them.
  • Jody_SealJody_Seal Posts: 3,164 Mega Baller
    @liquid d The "Boz"!
    Hobby Boats can be expensive when the hobbyist is limited on their own skill and expertise.

    liquid dthager
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,067 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @oldjeep I ski on a lake that was dug to be a storm water retention pond for adjacent commercial development. Because of that, our lake is 12 feet deep, much deeper than many purpose built ski lakes that seem to average around six feet deep.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • matthewbrownmatthewbrown Posts: 493 Open or Level 9 Skier
    @liquid d did you win a superswami? I remember skiing in that back in maybe 97’ at Okeheelee.
    liquid d
  • oldjeepoldjeep Posts: 3,754 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    edited January 19
    @lpskier I have no idea how deep the lake in ft Myers is. It was apparently dug for material to make the roads that flank it. It is just long enough to hold the courses, I don't drive there - it scares me a little. You have to be careful as a driver and skier if you like to just spin and do 4 passes like I prefer.
    Chuck P
    Not a mechanic but I play one at home
  • liquid dliquid d Posts: 1,313 Mega Baller
    @matthewbrown I got 2nd i think... to Dee Dee Mahler..... my memory gets blurrier each year with the amount of bourbon that goes through me! HUGE trophy...haha!
  • HSLHSL Posts: 31 Baller
    Many were involved — but in addition to Mark Bozicevic — Joy Bozicevic should be recognized as a force behind this great facility.
    Jody_Sealthagerliquid d
  • RogerRoger Posts: 1,592 Mega Baller
    @jrs can probably answer most questions as I believe he has been skiing with the club since before the Park lakes where dug.
    Roger B. Clark - Okeeheelee skier. Senior driver, Senior Judge
  • NandoNando Posts: 581 Crazy Baller
    Shortly after Okeeheelee was completed, I was working for a county that was building a park (the parks department was part of my department and I was working on the overall design) and since I was the state association president, I was asked to pursue a ski site in it (small conflict of interest, but, if you're up front about those things...). My recollection, in very approximate numbers, is that at Okeeheelee they got over a million cubic yards of good road building material from the excavation. In our case, our soils were not usable and the space simply didn't work out. There was a synergy at Okeeheelee that combined a nearby road project (maybe several, I don't recall) with the park's location where the material for those projects was available nearby. One key to it working was that the distance to haul the material was short and, therefore, cost effective. If our numbers were what they were in the '80s, we'd have more clout in potential public projects, but it's a tough sell and most public officials have no understanding of the sport and government attorneys see the liability first.
  • MISkierMISkier Posts: 3,123 Mega Baller
    Millennium Park in Grand Rapids already has 5 lakes. They have held slalom events on one of the lakes (and Freddy Krueger's world record SkiFly jump), but it takes all kinds of special permits. And, I believe they have to pay whatever the usual daily pedal boat rental revenue is, since they shut the lake to that traffic. Could be a great site, but the powers that be do not seem as visionary as the Okeeheelee folks.

    The worst slalom equipment I own is between my ears.
  • liquid dliquid d Posts: 1,313 Mega Baller
    5 LAKES and they can't figure out how to make one of them a ski site? Sounds like some more organization needs to happen up there.
  • LeonLLeonL Posts: 2,420 Crazy Baller
    @oldjeep where is this ski lake in Ft.Myers? I just this year began to winter in FT Myers and I'd like to look into skiing there. Who would I contact?
    Leon Leonard Stillwater Lake KY - SR Driver SR Judge
  • oldjeepoldjeep Posts: 3,754 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    @LeonL the one I am talking about is a private lake, only reason I get to ski on it is that I know someone who has a share in a boat.

    The only public place I know of in Ft Myers is Eden -

    Otherwise there are a couple private lakes with courses on them if you know the right people. (Harborage and Alico lake)
    Chuck P
    Not a mechanic but I play one at home
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