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SL board to reconsider skateboard park site

December 21, 2009
By CHRIS KNIGHT, Enterprise Senior Staff Writer

SARANAC LAKE - The village Board of Trustees will take another look at the possibility of locating a skateboard park behind the village offices.

The move comes after the Saranac Lake SkatePark Committee ruled out putting the 10,000-square-foot skateboard park on town-of-Harrietstown-owned property next to the Saranac Lake Civic Center.

"There was an overwhelming consensus that regardless of interventions to improve access and safety, that the civic center was not an acceptable site for our children to use as a skateboard park," committee President Peggy Wiltberger wrote in a Dec. 7 letter to the village.

Wiltberger said the civic center site has "little visibility, a lack of passive supervision and a potential for danger in surrounding vacant and hidden lands" and would be an "unwise use" of the $100,000 to $200,000 the group is trying to raise for the project.

Instead, the committee asked the village to take another look at two locations that had already been considered: behind the village offices and the village park at the corner of Broadway and Ampersand Avenue.

Wiltberger's letter identifies the site behind the village offices, which is already used by skateboarders, as the committee's favorite "because of its central, busy location, its proximity to schools and its access to local businesses."

To ensure the skatepark would be there forever, the committee asked the board last year to designate the site they'd need as a permanent village park. But the board declined, saying such a move could complicate the potential sale of the village offices and surrounding property.

Committee members attended last week's village board meeting and urged the board to reconsider.

Natalie Leduc said the site behind the village offices would be perfect.

"I just can't believe it's such a runaround," she said. "I know you're debating about space, but it just seems to me that right back there is where it ought to be."

If the village property is ever sold, Leduc suggested the village attach a condition to the sale requiring the buyer to keep the skatepark or replace it in another location.

"The village already has land back there that's a permanent park," Wiltberger added. "You dedicated land back there for the River Walk as a park in perpetuity. Add on 10,000 square feet more for the skateboard park."

Mayor Tom Michael suggested the committee work with Community Development Director Jeremy Evans or village Manager Marty Murphy to come up with a possible layout for the skateboard park that would have "a minimal amount of intrusion" onto the village's property.

"Come back to the board, and show how you can compact it within the confines of where it is now," Michael said. "The board will then take a look at leaving it where it is, giving it a skateboard park identity in perpetuity, and we'll work from there."

But before the village goes too far, Trustee Jeff Branch requested the soil be tested for potential contamination. Branch said he was told that electrical transformers were disposed on the property when it was used by the Paul Smith's Electric Light and Power and Railroad Company.

"If we're going to go ahead with that, for the sake of safety, I don't want them back there digging up contaminated soil," he said. "I want to make that contingent on anything going forward."

Michael asked Evans to research possible grant funding for investigation and clean up of so-called "brownfield" sites. The village may have to dig up the property this spring or summer to repair a broken sewer line that crosses it, he added.

"If we suspect there's a problem out there, we shouldn't stick our heads in the sand," Michael said. "We should know what we have to deal with."

Wiltberger said the committee's fundraising efforts are essentially on hold until a site for the skateboard park is designated. About $27,000 has been raised so far.

"When you apply for funding, they want to know if it's going to be a park in perpetuity," she said. "They want to fund a project they know is going to succeed."

The village had also considered locating the skateboard park in the William Morris Play Park, but that option was ruled out amid opposition from representatives of the Adirondack Carousel, which has already secured a commitment from the village to locate in the park.

The Ampersand-Broadway Park was taken off the list of possible sites because of opposition from the park's neighbors.


Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or



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