Okeeheelee Park celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2001. Prior to the park’s establishment, a handful of waterskiers in the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches had a vision and a plan to incorporate ski lakes into the design of the park.
From 1975 to 1981, the ski club worked with the Palm Beach County Parks Department and the Okeeheelee Advisory Committee. After overcoming objections from county officials and demonstrating how waterskiing facilities would enhance the park, the skiers prevailed and a world-class ski site was born.
The skiing facilities are maintained by Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation and the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches. Although the county developed the lakes, no monies were allocated by the county for site improvements. Instead, ski club members came together in the beginning and loaned money to the club to build the first boat ramp and install two slalom courses.
Throughout the history of the site, the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches has funded all of the physical improvements to the site. Each year the club spends approximately $15-25,000 to maintain the courses, docks, jump ramp, and other facilities.
The ski club also developed all of the site improvements. Club members built the boat docks, pavilions, judges towers, and clubhouse. They installed the slalom and jump courses and ramp and landscaped the areas surrounding the docks, as well.
The ski club holds frequent work parties to maintain the site. Indeed, it is the countless hours of volunteerism for over two decades that have helped the site at Okeeheelee become and remain a world class waterskiing facility.
Okeeheelee is an excellent example of how local clubs and local government can work together to fulfill a goal. Because of the efforts of the ski club and its partnership with Palm Beach County officials, waterskiers have access to custom-built ski lakes.
As a feature of a county park, the ski site is open to the public and certain rules apply to enhance the skiing experience at Okeeheelee and ensure safety for all.
In order for county officials to better understand our sport and develop fair and consistent regulations, the ski club assists the county with updating the rules. For example, only AWSA-approved towboats are allowed on the ski lakes and, for a nominal fee, a yearly boat permit is required.
One of the goals of the Ski Club of the Palm Beaches is to help promote the sport of waterskiing. The sport will grow only through accessibility to quality ski sites.
The ski facility at Okeeheelee was a dream of a few avid waterskiers that came true because of persistence, hard work, and life-long friendships. It is a model that, if duplicated across the country, will enable the sport to grow.