Skate-Park Committee Says “Poop or Get Off the Pot”

After considering the tennis court at Ampersand Park in Saranac Lake at a recent village board meeting and being met with a roomful of opposition, The Village Board asked the Skate Park Committee to consider other locations and according to Rich Shapiro, it’s time for the board to make up their minds..

Shapiro, in his statement to the Village Board during public comment, says kids who originally requested a skate park are now old enough to have kids who are requesting a skate park. The Skate Park Committee has spent countless hours researching over 20 different sites and answering the board’s questions and he continues by saying they’re still going in circles.


Shapiro says they’ve spent money on engineering and surveys only to have them rendered useless due to the moving target of the site’s location behind the old Village Offices. He continues to list the history of the board’s activity regarding the history of placing the skate park in that parking lot – at which point he brings out a map and suggests that it’s time to move forward..

Each of the The Skate Park Committee members ranked the six top choices for the Skate Park and William Morris Park had the top score, the scores followed in order from second best choice to worst choice were by Ampersand Park, Behind The Old Village Offices, The Lot Behind Community Bank – next to the Enterprise building, Pelkey Lane and the Civic Center.

A Letter addressed to the Village Board says most of the community agrees on the need for a skatepark. Now we just need to agree on a location. Two generations of skateboarders in Saranac Lake are still waiting for a site for their skatepark .

 Choosing a Skatepark site:

The SkatePark Committee has researched what makes a skateboard park site successful. They have met with three professional skatepark developers and they have confirmed their understanding of important site criteria. The most essential site criteria are:

• Walking distance from schools and residential areas via a safe route

• Open, visible location providing passive supervision

• A location that encourages multiple uses. A busy existing park is ideal.

• Accessibility to other village services (bathrooms, convenience stores)


To evaluate each site the committee used 7 criteria:

Walking distance from schools (primarily middle school),

Walking distance from homes (French Hill,Park Ave, Helen Hill, Kiwassa)

Safety of walking routes (sidewalks, traffic lights)

Visibility for passive supervision, accessibility to bathrooms and mini-marts, multi-use facility, and “environment” of location (aesthetics, bad elements hanging around, bad influences in area, etc.).

Each member of the committee independently ranked the six sites for each of the seven criteria on a

scale of 1 to 6, one being the best, six the worst.

The committee’s combined rankings, with ” 1″ as the best site and “6″ as the least good site are:

#1 Choice: William Morris Park 1.33

#2 Choice: Ampersand Park 1.83

#3 Choice: Lot behind Old Village Office Lot 2.83

#4 Choice: Community Bank 4.00 (next toEnterprise)

#5 Choice: Pelkey Lane 4.33

#6 Choice: Civic Center 6.00

According to the committee, the Civic Center was unanimously ranked the lowest of these six potential sites, and as such it may not be an appropriate site for a successful skatepark.

The 20 sites evaluated during the past 8 years include Alpine Terrace between the two bars, Ampersand Park, Broadway School (old location of school) Civic Center : Behind the building, Civic Center: between building and Ampersand Ave, Civic Center: between building and John Munn Rd, Depot Street, Dewey Mt., Lake Colby, Lake Flower adjacent to boat launch, Lake Flower tennis courts, Mt Pisgah, Pelkey Lane, Pine Street (private property) Reservoir on View St SL Central School (Lapan and Edgewood) Two private properties on Church Street, Village of Saranac Lake Office, 3 site orientations, William Morris Park and the Village owned lot behind Community Bank. Many of the more distant locations were ruled out due to the travel required to get to the locations.

According to Shapiro, Two Village Board Trustees, the Community Development Director, Village Manager, DPW Manager and the Skatepark Committee assessed the top three sites over several meetings and there was overwhelming consensus from the five Village representatives that Ampersand Park was the most appropriate.

Last week,Pelkey Lanewas added to the mix. It is not a great location due to lack of visibility but could be made acceptable, assuming the village is willing to make the investment:

1) The land needs to be secured from theSchool District

2) Relative to the other locations, there is massive earth moving required

3) A water line may need to be moved

4) At least 2 utility poles would have to be relocated

5) Many trees would need to be removed both on the lower bank to afford visibility from downtown and up the bank to afford visibility from that direction

6) The bank above the park would need to be cut back to afford visibility from the road

7) In addition, besides the 6000 square feet required for the skatepark itself, additional clearing would be necessary to allow for some benches for spectators and for skaters to rest.

8) A cleared (gravel?) path back to the school would allow for safe access from the school to the park and improve visibility

9) This would have to be made an official park, both to protect our $1OOK+ investment and to allow us and the Village to apply for Parks & Recreation grants .

“Why have a skateboard park”:

Skateboarding develops physical fitness , balance and coordination and is a wonderful athletic activity for kids who strive for individual achievements. It promotes self-esteem and goal setting, attracting a wide variety of youth with peak participant age being 9-14. Skateboarding is a great option for families who are unable to meet the time or financial commitments that other sports often require.

What the Community Planners realize:

In the “Public Skatepark Development Guide”, Peter Whitley puts the challenge this way. “Many communities feel that skateparks are exclusive facilities only appealing to a small number of local teenagers. This .. .leads to the erroneous conclusion that the skatepark should be located ‘ somewhere’ that the teenagers can do what they want without impacting the well-being of anyone else. That ‘somewhere’ is usually . .. on the outskirts of town… Sadly, it’s still too common to witness … planners establish criteria for placing new skateparks where it is least likely to offend rather than where it’s most likely to succeed.” What is needed is to choose the most appropriate site and work with those who have concerns to find solutions. We need the Village Board to have the will to do what is right for our youth. The Committee wants to build a beautiful, fun, safe, successful skatepark. We are very mindful of concerns that neighbors have, and are eager to work with them for satisfactory solutions. All the sites have traffic and hills, some much busier and steeper than others. All these sites, except the Civic Center (no crosswalk or signal to cross a busy road with cars often exceeding the speed limit and side walk access is limited),have safe sidewalk access from schools and neighborhoods and traffic lights to cross major intersections. Skateboarding in streets is dangerous and is the primary reason the CPSC recommends that municipalities build skateparks. Skateparks are the solution, not the problem. Must our youth be relegated to a marginal area inappropriate for a skateboard park rather than ask fit adults to drive to an alternate tennis court? There is obviously not an easy solution or we would not be without a site after 8+ years of planning. It has not been from lack of effort on our part: 3 different sites behind the Village Offices, 2 surveys and engineering plans prepared . We have lost a $3000 grant due to delays , a larger grant is now in jeopardy, and we have been hampered in our efforts to apply for grant money due to a lack of firm plans. After 20 years of effort, we are ready to build a skatepark. Please choose one of these sites at the next Village Board meeting so we can have the Saranac Lake SkatePark open in August 2013!

Members of the Saranac Lake SkatePark Committee include Lindy Ellis, Deb Harrison, Gail Meyer, Rich Shapiro, Jon Vinograd, and Peggy Wiltberger.

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