SARANAC LAKE - A village resident raised strong objections Monday night to the idea of returning the village beach to Lake Flower.
"To me it makes absolutely no sense," Old Lake Colby Road resident Joy Cranker said during the public comment session at the village Board of Trustees meeting.
In recent months, a committee of volunteers has been spearheading a campaign to bring the village beach back to Lake Flower, where it was located until the 1970s, when it was closed as part of the state's widening of River Street to a four-lane highway. A new village beach was created at Lake Colby, where it is today.
The committee met earlier this month with village Trustee Paul Van Cott, who's been talking with representatives of the various state agencies that would have to approve the proposal, including the departments of Health and Environmental Conservation. Van Cott said the idea has a lot of support but would have to negotiate both regulatory and fundraising hurdles to become reality.
Cranker, however, cited several obstacles that she believes make the proposal unfeasible, most of which were raised at the committee's Oct. 10 meeting.
The first was the lack of parking for a Lake Flower beach. Cranker said any additional parking at the state boat launch on Lake Flower, beyond the amount of traffic it sees in the summertime, will create an "overflow" situation with heavy competition for parking spaces.
Cranker also was concerned about water quality.
"You have a lot of people living on Lake Flower," she said. "You have a lot of boat usage. The beach would be downstream from the boat launch and all the gasoline off the boats. Plus, whatever old things are pollutants in that area, that are still there, haven't been taken care of and would be a hazard."
Van Cott said earlier this month that one of the DEC's biggest potential issues with a Lake Flower beach is that Pontiac Bay may contain hazardous waste including benzene and coal tar from a former coal-gasification plant once run by the Saranac Lake Gas Company on Payeville Lane, which drains into Brandy Brook and eventually Pontiac Bay. Environmental testing and possibly remediation would have to be done before a beach could be located on the Lake Flower shoreline, Van Cott said.
"You also have something different that wasn't there 36 years ago," Cranker said. "You have personal watercraft buzzing all the time. I don't want to be at the beach being buzzed by personal watercraft."
The water in Lake Colby is cleaner, Cranker said, because the lake has less development and more limited boat access. There's also plenty of parking at Lake Colby, and the beach there is larger, she pointed out.
The only two reasons Cranker said she's heard for bringing the beach back to Lake Flower are business and nostalgia. She didn't think either argument held water.
"I really don't think it's going to help local businesses," Cranker said. "People going to the beach aren't usually prepared to go shopping. They're wearing beach attire, and they're not going to go shopping.
"I think it's great that people have wonderful, warm feelings about Lake Flower's beach when it was there, when their children were young. But my children are young now. I see nothing wrong with Lake Colby and we'd like to stay at Lake Colby."
Trustees typically don't respond during the public comment period, and they held true to that Monday night.
However, Van Cott told the Enterprise today that Cranker's questions are "valid" and would need to be examined as the proposal moves forward.
"I think the question of the contamination that's in Pontiac Bay and what sort of risk that poses for the beach, that's an important question," Van Cott said. "Parking and traffic, those are questions that need to be looked at in terms of feasibility of a beach, and I think those are the steps the beach group is starting to try and look at.
"The ultimate question is, is moving the beach back to Lake Flower what we want as a community? That's something where, if we get that far along and it is feasible, we'll have to have community meetings so we get a sense of how people feel."
Village resident Shawn Boyer, who's led the beach return committee, posted on the group's Facebook page Tuesday that he still believes there is strong support for the proposal.
"We are going to get resistance (as with anything) but we will keep moving forward as long as we can," he said.