Calgary Yacht Club at Chestermere Lake

“In 1923 the first sailboat, owned by Morris Shyback, made its appearance on the water,”  according to Mrs. Anne Hinds. In 1924 Roy Lea purchased a 15′ craft called The Native Daughter and interested Mike O’Sullivan (a City of Calgary Police Officer) in the sport. Thus, these three men formed The Calgary Sailing Club.  (page 387 Saddles Sleighs and Sadiron)

Mr Shyback’s boat was named “The Miss Calgary,’ and Mike O’Sullivan’s boat was called ‘The Gleaner’ after the first boat he had sailed on back in Ireland. 

This year 2020, the CYC decided to start celebrating the upcoming 100 years of  what eventually became the largest sailing club in Alberta, The Calgary Yacht Club.  A major celebration is planned for 2024 but meanwhile stories and photos are being published a they are written and researched both here and at the CYC webpage. http://www.cyc.ab.ca

If you would like to be on the mailing list for updates on the CYC history please email Contact Us 

Two other Chestermere history books ( besides Saddles Sleighs and Sadirons 1971) have documented the history of the club, ‘Growing Through Time” (1981)  edited by Elaine Peake, and ‘Chestermere a Home for all Seasons’ (2005) edited by Audrey McDonald.  all three books are available online.

‘Chestermere a Home for All Seasons’ is still available for sale. Click here. History Books about Chestermere

(photo right of Mike Sullivan and his boat ‘The Gleaner.” and and several articles from the Calgary Herald about the early days of CYC Sailors.) 

Thank you to research by local Chestermereian Eileen McElroy for the newspaper articles from the early days. 

The Yacht Club Shed 1933 to 2020 

As the club grew the members found that they needed a club house and a place to store boats. The first photo ( c 1913) shows a small pier located on the East shore approximately where today you find Chestermere Landing. 

Later, these early sailors set up a  clubhouse in the 1920s (is is believed this was a repurposed house) and that photo is shown in the next photo.

In the 30s the little store on the east shore ( approximately where The Landing is now) was owned by George Hoffner (referred to as ‘Hoffner’s Planks’ by locals.)  Mr George Hoffner supported local rowers and  dinghy sailors and the trophy he donated for dinghy sailing is shown on the grass in front of the gathered sailors.  The Hoffner rowing trophy is now owned by CHF, kindly donated by Robert Walker whose grandfather George won it so often, they gave it to him to keep).  The 1929 newspaper article mentions Mr. Hoffner. 

With the moving of the  #1 highway crossing of the lake slightly to the south, the club was cut off from sailing the length of the lake so a new clubhouse was built in 1934  by AB Himmelman further south on the other side of the road and bridge, on CPR leased property just south of  ‘the store.’  (next photo) It is just to the north of this new clubhouse that a boat shed was built, also by AB Himmelman, a boat builder, contractor and the first Commodore of the CYC. 

It had rail tracks to ease the hauling of boats into the shed and finger docks to help the sailors launch.  It can be seen in the background of this photo of Fred Paasche (L), a CYC member and cabin owner,  sailing his boat The Lorraine with a friend.  (Photo from Chestermere A Home for All Seasons p. 511 )

Soon, the north end of the lake became too busy with boat traffic and unsuitable for sailing, so in 1951 this second clubhouse was moved to the present location of CYC, 635 East Chestermere Drive, it is believed that this shed or the better part of it, came along.  

 

These three photos courtesy of Michael Hooper, former Commodore and  present Chestermere resident, were taken by Bert Linder, CYC member and cabin owner in the 1950s and 60s. ( 677 East Chestermere Drive). The first photo shows a view of the shed (looking north) from the water, off the Linder’s dock. The shed was in the SW of the property and the doors faced west, with finger docks from the shed to assist the sailors launching.They winched them out to the water from trailers in the shed.  The photo shows a second shed as well. The club house can be seen in the background ( red roof) and the cabin owned by Woodliffe family in the background. The  next two (aerial) photos show the footprint of the shed in the SW corner, and remnants of the finger docks), and the roof of the CYC with barely visible, white “CYC” painted on the long west roof.

The shed was moved in 1959 (according to Toddy Hooper) to the SE corner of the property ( second photo upper left), where it was until demolition in 2020. 

In this 1973 photo of the entrance to the CYC looking west, (courtesy of the Penley family, Ken Penley was commodore 1966, 1997) the shed can be seen to the left of the photo to the place where it was moved in 1959 until demolition in 2020.  

And in 2020 with the expanding membership and need for storage for boats and materials and a new Bo’sun work area, a somewhat emotional decision was made to demolish the shed. 

It took many volunteers and about three days of work to finish and two dumpster loads hauled away. 

RIP old shed, 1933 to 2020, seventy seven years of great service.  Thanks AB. 

Photo credits Jen Peddlesden and Chaz Peddlesden 

View of shed from East Chestermere Drive.
Starting to empty the shed.
An old door on the east side long boarded over.
Volunteers Murray, Tim, and Commodore Bill filling the first dumpster.

Calgary Yacht Club - A 'modern history' by Stephen Reichenfeld former Commodore

Calgary Yacht Club Summer 1994 635 East Chestermere Drive

CYC,  a modern history …

By Stephen Reichenfeld, Master Laser Sailor and Former Commodore CYC

As CYC membership changes through time I got to thinking that it would be of some value to recall where the club has come from and to provide some “recent history” of the Calgary Yacht Club (CYC), post 1980.  For the pre 1980s period you may refer to the link provided for the earlier club history published in the 1981 Chestermere history book  Growing Through Time, Stories of Chestermere Lake’ edited by Elaine Peake   and the update written by Craig Narraway in ‘Chestermere a Home for all Seasons’ found at this link. 

I am providing some background about the Club and some insight to the emotional attachment, the pride and sense of ownership many members have for CYC.  The information is my recall and based on my approximately 40 years as an active member. (I started very young.)

There are lots of reasons for knowing and understanding history but one that sticks with me goes something like “if you don’t know where you came from, you can’t know where you are going.”  It fits with the words I shared when accepting the 2019 Member of the Year award when I said, “all we enjoy here at the club today comes from standing on the shoulders of those who came before us.”  I believe it holds even more true today.

The windsurfing era.  Thanks largely to the efforts of Commodores like Peter White (1980-1981) and then Gerry May (1982) and others, the 1980s was a period of tremendous growth as the sport of windsurfing took over the waters.  Parking in Chestermere even became a problem as the numbers would swell at CYC as we introduced Tuesday and Thursday night racing.  It was great fun, lots of effort, and volunteers ran it all. Some of us were kept busy teaching windsurfing throughout these summers and then introducing people to the idea of competition and the racing rules as the fleet numbers grew.  CYC had one of the first weekly windsurfing racing series anywhere.

We can thank Commodore Phil Pratley (1984) for his foresight, and his engineering experience from building the Plus-15 system in Calgary, to build the club breakwater that has only required minor repairs over 35 years. He now lives in Florida, where he continues to be an active sailor.

On the personal front, after being very involved in the club through the late 1970s and 1980s running the windsurfing school, starting Tuesday and Thursday night racing split between windsurfers and mostly Hobie Cats respectively, I took a break from membership for a few years while Lesley and I started raising a family. 

The Hern era. I was enticed back to club activity in 1994 or 1995 by Keith Hern (Commodore 1996-1997).  Keith can be largely credited for saving the club from near bankruptcy as without his efforts and sharp administration the club may not exist today or would at best have less property. Keith now lives in BC and limits his sailing to chartering keelboats but his son, Ian Hern, remains a member of CYC. ( see photo of Keith and Ian at lobster broil)

During this period the idea of having a strong youth group to ensure the future had returned as a focus for the club and Keith along with a few others had a vision to re-start the dormant CYC sailing school to bring in new sailors.  The club had some old Flying Juniors, leftovers from the Glenmore Sailing Club program and four wooden Opti like prams; these had been built with help from a Community Development Grant obtained by Doug Bell in 1989. (see below for more of this story).  This was all before CYC had an AGLC Gaming License that permitted the club to participate in casino revenue so money was tight. Everything was done by volunteers.

Fortunately, Dave Dawson (CYC Treasurer/Commodore [1998-1999] and a Hobie 16 sailor worked at SAIT and had access to large workshops. A few of us, Dave, Frank Stollbert (Hobie 17 sailor),  Tim Hornett (CYC House and Grounds; Lightning) and I went in a number of weekends to repair, spruce up and put a little lipstick on our tired fleet of boats.  Come spring, Trish Petch, daughter of members Sue and John Petch and current Laser Masters sailor Lee Nagy’s niece, was hired to run a week-end CYC Learn to Sail program.  One of our current members, John David, came out of that program and a number of other youth went on to teach and sail elsewhere. We taught about 15 youth to sail that year with all the bookings and administration being completed via a fax machine at my office. It has proven to be the beginning of great things to come.

Around the same time, Dave Dawson started the annual trek by CYC members to the Pacific West Coast to take part in the ‘Flotilla.’  The group charter keel boats and the experienced members help the less experienced to improve their skills and navigate the tricky tides and waters.  This goes on today thanks to the enthusiasm and work of long time member and Laser sailor, Brian Breeze.

Then came the Dalberg era. As Commodore, (2000-2001) Karsten Dalberg (Lightning) along with Keith Hern, was instrumental in getting an AGLC Gaming License for the CYC.  This brought new revenue that at the time seemed to rain dollars from Heaven.   This allowed the club to replace all the rickety shoreline structures with the docks we utilize today as well as many other capital expenditures.  A relative of Karsten’s volunteered to weld all the docks. It was spring and I remember freezing as I held  welding rods for him as we worked against the clock to get it completed before the water came in.  Most of the steel was procured at minimal cost by a member who worked at Prudential Steel.  Again, all volunteer efforts except the club now had a seasonal manager, Fie Hulsker, to run the office.

With access to AGLC casino funding it was believed the club could afford having a manager who would help organize and build the school and the racing program. I think we were the first club in Alberta to have a paid manager.  Fie was great with the kids and the parents involved in the burgeoning race program. Having previously been the volunteer manager of the Alberta Racing Team and CYA Canada Volunteer of the Year, she knew everyone in the sailing community and was great at organizing the busy youth programs and arranging billets when we travelled. At its peak there were about 35 youth on the CYC team and they travelled extensively to compete.  One of our members, Eric Tulk, won the 2005 Laser Radial Canadian Youth Championships held in New Brunswick. I helped run the club sailing school and race program along with Fie by carefully watching our expenses and having the good fortune to have strong enrollment we were generally successful in providing financially robust programs.

Through these years, coaches were hard to find so through Fie we recruited an experienced Manitoba coach Steve McBride for a couple of seasons.  He now runs the program at Royal Victoria YC and has progressed to coach even at the Olympic level.  When we couldn’t find coaches in Canada we searched overseas and for a couple of years we hired coaches from the UK. Thanks to Phil Paxton who helped out with billeting and other support, the club youth program, 29’ers and Laser Masters sailors benefitted from some excellent coaching. One of them, Alistair Dickson went on to become a High Performance Manager with RYA in Wales.

Meanwhile, through prudent management and successful fundraising, the club was building a significant bank balance for the benefit of the future membership.

The next milestone came during the time of Commodore Craig Narraway (2002-2003) (Lightning) .  We can thank Craig and his tenacity in getting CYC municipal tax exempt status to relieve the club from the financial burden of property taxes under the Community Organization Property Tax Exemption Regulation (COPTER). After applying in 1999 the exemption was refused several times by the then Town of Chestermere. Craig chased this cause down like a dog with a bone and ended up winning the case at a hearing in 2005 where the Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs agreed that CYC qualified. This one decision has probably saved the club over $30,000 a year ever since.  I estimate more than the value of a $400,000 annuity, maybe more. As another legacy, Craig’s dog, Romeo, left his pawprint in the north launch ramp (built by Doug Bell, Craig, Larry Heald, me, and a local contractor) ( See separate essay by Craig Narraway on COPTER)

Bill Mulloy, another long time member and Laser sailor, served as Commodore from 2003-2004, until work called for more of his attention.  He provided extensive experience gained in the oil patch to capital expenditure planning.

Then along comes my time as Commodore (2004-2010). After having served the club running the sailing school, youth program and as Vice Commodore, I stayed in the Commodore position for six years to see through the project of building the new clubhouse we enjoy today. I had the good fortune to be supported by a hard-working and focused executive group that kept the club seasonal operational wheels rolling while design work went on with assistance from a club member architect plus volunteer contributions by zoning expert member Ralf Southwell.

We were fortunate to have Elinor Southwell, currently our reliable Thursday Night Racing Officer, as club Treasurer.  She worked closely with Fie and AGLC to make sure we complied with all regulations while we accumulated a balance of over $500,000 allowing the club to complete the new clubhouse with no debt.  Phil Paxton oversaw the construction and budget as well as securing a $50,000 grant from the Provincial government. He also donated landscaping and used his business contacts to get sod donated for the lakeside lawn.

The unique bar facility we all enjoy, “Obsession”, was designed and built by Brian Graham and Dave Martin with assistance from other members as needed. A well utilized and much appreciated addition to the club.

Over the past 20 years many of the club board members have come from the CYC Laser Masters, Grand Masters and Great Grand Masters fleet. Enthusiastic members and sailors everyone, collectively they have sailed most of the ‘Seven Seas’ and have missed only one Laser Masters World Championship in over 18 years.  They have hosted a “Stampede Breakfast” at a regatta in Florida. Their indefatigable spirit and dedication is to be applauded, and serves as an excellent example to our youth that “Sport for Life” is more than just a catchy slogan. 

There are many other names and contributions on which I could elaborate but I think my point is made.  Of the current membership, people like Bill Mulloy, Dave Elliott, Lesley Reichenfeld, Mike Hooper, Phil Paxton and many others are the people I look to and am thankful for having been the ones to build the foundation on which CYC currently rests and for members to enjoy for years to come. I encourage the current membership to tip your hat and buy them a drink the next time you have an opportunity as CYC would not be the same without their efforts.

Fast forward to 2020 and CYC members enjoy a fantastic facility and equipment to share with our community, second to none in Canada. The efforts have indeed been fruitful.

June 1989 Opti launch day L to R Riley Chalmers, Doug Bell, Roy Chalmers, Caitlin Bell, Ada Peddlesden, Blythe Bell, Bob Cameron, Sarah Cameron, Lauren Bell, George Hoff (directed building of the Optis) In front Gillis Bell, Colin Bell, Matthew Houghton, Brian Houghton, Don Penley with Alex Penley, Nick Kazakoff.

In ~1987 Doug Bell ( CYC Member and Laser sailor)  applied though the MLA for a $1200 community development grant with a view to getting Chestermere kids into sailboats. Building four boats at once needed some space so the Chestermere High School shop granted us access one evening per week during the winter. Because George Hoff, CYC member and a Norwegian shipwright supervised the construction. The school gave us free reign of the shop (probably wouldn’t happen today as easily). At least half of the volunteer boat builders were non-members of the club, so we had good community representation. By spring the Club house could be warmed a bit  ( it wasn’t winterized at that time) so the boats were completed and painted there. North Sails Vancouver built sails for great price, so the the total cost per boat was $300 ! The stitched & glued painted boats wouldn’t have measured to official Opti specs and didn’t last long but they were a re-start to youth sailing at the club.

(L) George Hoff, (R) Ralf Southwell at Chestermere High School shop 1989.
1994 Keith Hern showing son Ian how to broil a lobster! at CYC
North end of new breakwall NW corner of lots
1996 1997 building the new dock CYC
1996 1997 two young people enjoys the new dock at sunset CYC

A Brief History of the Process Taken in the CYC obtaining Property Tax Exemption (COPTER)

Craig Narraway – Commodore 2002 – 2003 CYC                                                                                    

1998

This all started in 1998 with a call from Brian Johnston, then Commodore at the Pigeon Lake Yacht Club.  He relayed, that he had heard on the news, the Govt. of Alberta was passing an act that would help to make small sporting, non- profit clubs more viable, by exempting their property taxes if they met certain conditions.

With this in mind I contacted City of Calgary tax advisors and municipal tax advisors in Edmonton regarding our status and applicability. 

I received copies of the Municipal Government Act (MGA 362), and the Community Organization 1998 Property Tax Exemption Regulation (COPTER) and forwarded them to our Sec/Treasure Larry Heald, who was a Lawyer.  Asked for his take on our applicability, he concluded that on several points that the CYC might not qualify.  Undaunted, I continued the process and requested an application from the Town of Chestermere.  The Town Manager, Frank Kosa, advised as the Town didn’t have a provision for such an application, just to get one from the City of Calgary and they would accept that.  Seemed simple enough to me, get the application, fill it out, submit it, and get the tax-exempt status.  How easy would that be.  Thus our first application was filed Apr 29, 1998.

DENIED!

1999

 We again filed for exemption to the Town April 29, 1999. 

DENIED!  

 Again, no reason given, but they may have thought the membership fees were too high and that the CYC did not provide benefit to the community as a whole.  Then, the majority of members were from the Calgary area.  At this time Doug Dixon, one of our Directors was also assisting in the pursuit.  George McKimm, a tax advisor, was hired to help with our application and subsequent appeal on a contingency basis.  For this, if successful, he would receive a percentage of our first year savings.  Seemed fair enough. 

Through this process we learned that several of the lots (3 of 5) had overlapping buildings, and thus the overlapped lots could be construed to be valued as a single parcel.

 

The application and appeal by George McKimm went unresolved and he was released.

We again applied and appeared in front of the Town Council, May 1, 2000. 

DENIED!

Nothing came of this application and we started considering a different tax advisor

 

2002

November 22, 2002 another application under the COPTER regulation was again submitted.

2003

 Jan 6, 2003 we appeared at the Town Council meeting where we again requested property tax exemption from the November application.

DENIED!

The Council felt that the age of usage of the Club was not young enough, that it was really mostly just Calgarians using the Club thus not benefitting the Chestermere Community, and again that the membership fees were too high.

On Jan 31, I spoke with Ed Murchowski, the Chestermere Tax Assessor regarding the strategy of 2000, where overlapped lots could be considered a one parcel.  He agreed and reduced our property value by 257,000 (1/4).  As I recall, that was about 5,000/yr in savings.  Seemed like a big win, but not there yet.

 

April 7, we appeared again at the Town Council meeting to plead/appeal our case.  The result – advised that exemption would be taken into consideration at a later date.  More delays!

December 1, again appeared at the Town Council meeting.  Our request was tabled where they cited the wrong section of the act for not approving it, and advised that they would have to bring it in front of the Town solicitor. 

December 15 Town Council meeting, CYC request for 2002 tax exemption

DENIED!

 2004

2004, it was a very good year.  In a letter dated Jan 6, 2004 from Sylvia Manning, the Town Administrative Officer, the Town cited all our previous applications and subsequent denials.  We were advised as such, that our application for the 2003 tax year and for 2004 was also,

DENIED!

 Feeling frustrated by this unending head butting process, I skipped a step, and on Feb 6th, applied directly to the Municipal Government Board for an Assessment Appeal.  This was the step that really started the ball rolling.  By Feb 11, the MGB sent out a Disclosure of Evidence to the CYC and the Town with a response time of 5 weeks.  During this period I sourced an ex-staffer from the City of Calgary tax assessment department, Alanna Brown, to help with our appeal.  She was hired on a contingency basis, dug her heels in and got right behind us.  The result of this appeal was MGB Board Order 100/04 which stated in part, “one of the central purposes of administrative law is to ensure the delegates of government exercise their authority fairly, correctly and procedurally”.  As there had been no decision of an ARB, the Town was directed to form an Appeal Review Board, and hear our appeal.  Thus our appeal was submitted to Chestermere Dec 21.  This would be heard Jan 17, 2005. Finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel!

2005

DENIED!

 This time was different though the ARB passed a motion unanimously, to offer the Club a 20% discount on the Municipal only portion of the tax bill.  This offer Alanna and I quickly rejected.  I think they were starting to feel that we did in fact qualify but not entirely.  The Town’s legal consultant then reviewed the motion passed at the ARB hearing and challenged its legitimacy.  Therefore, yet another ARB hearing would be required to resolve a valid decision regarding the CYC.  On around Apr 8th we received again,

DENIED!

With this denial they gave two written reasons for such.

  1. That the property was not used for the benefit of the general public in the community. Citing that definition from a different Section of the act…not applicable to the section we applied under.
  2. That our fees charged for membership were not minor.

Now we had the ammunition to again apply to the MGB for an appeal of the Town’s ARB decision, and this was granted.  The hearing took place on June 28th in downtown Calgary. 

Alanna and I appeared before the MGB and had a very good presentation, using the same arguments we had been peddling since 1998.  The Town’s Director of Finance, John Morrison, showed up late for the hearing almost as if it were no big deal. The MGB found his behavior (lateness) to be unacceptable and the Town was fined costs for that misfortune.

GRANTED!

On Sept 13, BOARD ORDER: MGB 094/05 was signed, stating in part, “The appeal in respect to the exemption is allowed…It is so ordered.”    Finally, we had it!  Tax exemption on all the property except the Licensed Premises, as we had not included that in our pursuit.  This part we would deal with at a later date.  Subsequently and more quietly, this area was incorporated into the exemption.

To qualify for tax exemption under the Municipal Government Act Section 362 (1) (n) (ii), and the Community Organization Property Tax Exemption Regulation AR 281/98, an applicant must pass 9 conclusive tests.  We did, and I was always confident we did.  What continued to drive me all along was a paragraph I had researched early on, in a City of Calgary Tax Bulletin to their assessors regarding the handling of the 1998 COPTER Tax Exemption Regulation.  This was the paragraph.

 

“While the Regulation addresses exemptions from taxation for properties held by non-profit organizations, the granting of the exemptions are not at the discretion of Council.  Simply put, if an organization or property owner makes application for an exemption from taxation by the required date, and where all the Regulations criteria and qualifications are met, the property is statutorily exempt from taxation by operation of law, and not through the exercise of any discretionary powers of Council.”

This process took seven and a half years to fruition, eight denials, and saw me through three other Commodores.  I’m thankful for all their support, and was proud to have accomplished this for the CYC.

                                                    Written December 2020

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