The Lake Placid News' (May 11) editorial got it right about Lake Placid's skatepark: "(I)f local officials give it away the track record of misused grant money should be worn as a blemish, a Scarlet Letter of how a community wasted away money that was given for the benefit of kids. Shameful."
Last week, the town board voted to give the skatepark to Saranac Lake. If the skatepark eventually moves to Saranac Lake, while I am disappointed in the process and believe it is a loss for Lake Placid, I am pleased that Saranac Lake's town and community leadership stepped up, led, worked together and made decisions to do what is best for the kids.
Several years ago, we observed that many local and visiting children were avid skateboarders and did not have a venue for their sport. I met with many stakeholders and offered to help lead a skatepark effort. Shirley Seney, then the North Elba town supervisor, secured a $100,000 New York state grant from Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. With this commitment in place, and selection of the best location available at the time, I committed $35,000 to the effort. In hindsight, I displayed poor judgment. Prior to investing my time and money and obtaining significant time and financial commitments from members of the community, better judgment on my part would have been to secure written assurances from the school, town and village to manage the skatepark in a first-class manner.
Throughout its history, when Lake Placid's elected officials have led, good things happened. While perhaps unspoken, it seems clear that having a skatepark in Lake Placid is not a priority of current town and village leadership. The seasonal hockey box at the oval is a priority - which is a great thing for the community. It has no fences, rules, supervision or onerous insurance requirements. The same could be done with the skatepark, at some location in Lake Placid, if current leadership desired. Thousands of towns, villages and schools around the country have skateparks that are accessible like our hockey box.
On the heels of the town board's recent vote, town Councilman Bob Miller was quoted in a newspaper article: "I think we tried to be respectful of a guy who had an investment in this project, but we can't allow that to hold up kids using the equipment, and we can't allow that to hold up the volunteers that are involved in this thing that want to help kids," Miller said. "At some point we have to fish or cut bait." This quote is unfortunate and misleading. I participated in getting the skatepark to Lake Placid to help kids. I believe local leadership has held up kids from using the skatepark, already in place, by not coming up with a creative solution for insurance, access and a better location.
In May, I was made aware of challenges the skatepark had faced for over two years. In June, I offered to seek alternative solutions, and the town board kindly accepted. Last week, less than 90 days later, the town board inexplicably and unilaterally pulled the plug on seeking solutions.
The town board has voted to give the skatepark away without, in my opinion, going through a suitable public process. This sends a chilling message to those with private capital who want to invest in Lake Placid - the exact opposite of the desired outcome. As I see it, local leadership should be creating an atmosphere that attracts private and public capital - to grow and support the needs of our communities. The vote to give the skatepark away also sends a disturbing message to New York state lawmakers, who granted $100,000 of taxpayer money to build the skatepark in Lake Placid.
Dan Leff lives in Lake Placid.