LAKE PLACID - In the parking lot behind the Shipman Youth Center, $100,000 worth of skateboard park equipment sits unused.
Officials from the town of North Elba want to change that.
Currently, the fenced-in skateboard park is closed. A sign reading "SKATE PARK CLOSED TO FURTHER NOTICE" hangs near its entrance.
A skateboarder rides on Main Street last week.
Photo/Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News
"I want to see kids use the equipment, and it would be preferable to see it utilized in the town," town Councilman Bob Miller said last week.
But if the town can't find a place to move the equipment where it will see more use, the board wants to make sure it gets used somewhere. And that could mean donating the equipment to an existing skateboard park in Wilmington or a long-planned one in Saranac Lake.
Supervisor Roby Politi said that because the equipment was purchased with $100,000 in grant funds and private donations, the town has an obligation to exhaust all possibilities before giving it away. The town is currently in talks with Lake Placid village officials to see if there's room on village property, possibly at the park on Hillcrest Avenue.
If all options fail, giving it to another community, like Saranac Lake, would be the best alternative, Politi said.
"My opinion is that they would be absolutely thrilled to have it," he said.
The equipment was purchased in 2007 with a state grant arranged by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and North Elba's supervisor at the time, Shirley Seney, and the park opened later that year.
The Lake Placid Central School District donated property for the park, and the town has paid the Shipman Youth Center $7,000 annually to staff it, which is necessary because the park is on school land.
The park was open 65 days last year, and it went unused for 38. Miller said when kids did show up, they often only stayed for 10 to 15 minutes.
"It's sad that it's not being utilized," Politi said. "But it makes no sense for us to continue funding the facility, and no one wants to oversee it."
Miller said it's hard to say why local kids don't use the park. He said often when the staff member from the youth center showed up, kids would leave. He said the kids may also want to skate in a location that's closer to town.
Pat Ledger, who helped build and design the park, agreed that monitoring may have driven kids away.
"They've got the skateboard park in Wilmington, and there's really no monitoring," he said. "It seems to function perfectly well like that."
Miller said the town has checked with the school and the state Olympic Regional Development Authority to see if there are other locations to set up the park. The town had hoped ORDA would have room at the Olympic Ski Jumping Complex, but there isn't.
Miller said moving the skateboard park to the village land on Hillcrest Avenue might be a nonstarter.
"One of the problems is those ramps are made out of steel: they make a lot of noise; they are very loud," he said. "I don't see how we can move to Hillcrest. I have a feeling the neighbors wouldn't appreciate having them in the backyard."
Skateboard park equipment made of wood or concrete makes less noise, Miller noted.
Ledger said the situation is discouraging. He said the town and village should look at other locations, like the village-owned park on McKinley Street, the multi-sport box at the Olympic Oval or the horse show grounds.
He said the Olympic Training Center on Old Military Road might be a good place, too.
"My hope would be that it would be put somewhere in Lake Placid," Ledger said. "This is the winter sports capital. You've got everybody from boxers to lugers to snowboarders and figure skaters training here. Skateboarding is just another sport, and we should have a facility for that."
Ledger said he wants to find another location for the equipment rather than give it away.
"If that doesn't happen, the next best thing would be to give it away," he said, "because I would hate to see it just sit there and rust."
Ledger said he hopes the town board's conversation about the equipment will spark a public discussion and get people energized about finding a solution to the problem.