Jupiter Farms foes of Slater wave pool cite Austin wave park problems

Surfing legend Kelly Slater himself could ride the waves at his proposed surfing ranch in northwestern Palm Beach County, and many in Jupiter Farms still wouldn’t be impressed.

They have urged the county not to move ahead with plans to allow the wave pool to be built at the Palm Beach Park of Commerce, citing the travails of a similar facility in Austin, Texas.

That Austin pool opened with a splash in October, but, a month later, it had left neighbors all wet — literally and figuratively.

Jupiter Farms residents and others from different parts of the county fear a replay of that failure, which they say could threaten the water supply from the nearby Pine Glades Natural Area.

“I urge you to nip this in the bud and deny the zoning changes rather than using valuable staff time on this,” Boynton Beach resident Chris Lockhart wrote to county commissioners. “If you do not, I ask that you direct staff to consider the impacts to Pine Glades Natural Area and other adjacent and nearby conservation lands, impacts on our water resources, etc.”

Steve C. Stout of Jupiter wrote commissioners with a similar plea.

“The location in question abuts the Pine Glades natural area,” Stout wrote. “Pine Glades is a water catchment area, which helps regenerate our aquifer and wells. Plus, the human impact of lights and noise — right next to this pristine and costly natural area. This is not a smart decision.”

Commissioners ultimately decided to have staff work with a firm affiliated with Slater to examine the prospect of having a surf ranch built at the Park of Commerce. Staff members are to give commissioners an update next month.

Currently, only industrial uses are permitted at the park. Slater’s firm wants the county to change that so the surf ranch and a 2,000-foot long wave pool can be built.

But in addition to water quality and environmental concerns, opponents cited what happened with NLand Surf Park in Austin, Texas.

NLand opened on Oct. 7, promising “long, consistent and barreling waves for novices, passionate travel surfers and world-class competitors alike,” according to information from its web site.

The web site said NLand’s “commitment to environmental stewardship began long before shovels hit the ground.”

A week into operation, NLand found damage under its lagoon. When the lagoon was drained to make repairs, water flowed onto nearby property, according to a story by Austin TV station KXAN.

The station quoted one woman, Patricia Garcia, saying her driveway “was full of water. I couldn’t even walk through here.”

An NLand spokesman, Chris Jones, told the station: “[The city] let us know about this and we immediately addressed the issue. We take every opportunity to be good neighbors.”

Commissioner Hal Valeche, whose district includes the Park of Commerce, downplayed worries of a leak if a surf ranch is built here. He said he fully supports the project, which he said would be more environmentally friendly than other uses allowed at the park.

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