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ON THE SCENE: Start planning for unforeseen changes

August 31, 2018
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Instead of covering local affairs this past week, I was out of Dodge first to San Diego, California, spending time with my colleagues at Aesthetics, Inc., a design firm that specializes in creating artfully designed spaces and art collections for medical centers, and the weekend with my brother Gerret, aka G, and his family in the Atwater Village of Los Angeles.

During this time, my activities ranged from snorkeling in La Jolla Cove, taking fast walks about the streets of San Diego each morning, discussing an up-coming Health Leadership conference in Washington, D.C. being organized by the National Organization for Arts in Health, meeting with a University of Southern California hospital executive, and hiking with my brother, nephew and his kids up and over Griffith Park, LA's version of Cascade Mountain.

In contrast to hiking up Cascade, the majority of the hikers I met in Griffith Park were Hispanic Americans, I suspect a high percent being Mexican Americans, all out for a bit of exercise in the clear, seasonably warm air. Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States.

Article Photos

People use pedal power in Montreal.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

Highlights of the park are the Hollywood sign, located on its westernmost edge, the Griffith Observatory, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, and the Greek Theatre, which was attracting people for Shakespeare in the Park as we were leaving. Some of the trails were steep, so we got quite a bit of exercise traversing 6 miles while crossing a couple summits and outlooks on our afternoon adventure. The views toward downtown LA to the south and the Gabriel Mountains to the north were spectacular. Surprising was finding an electric rental bicycle lying alongside the trail near the top of one of the hills.

I arrived on a Sunday in San Diego, and within an hour I was floating among the bright orange Garibaldi, schools of mackerel, seals, and seal lions and waving kelp and sea grass. The last time I went snorkeling was more than 40 years ago off Grand Bahama Island; when jumping into the water I landed on a shark, a small very startled shark. More unnerving was the barracuda that looked like a large pike but with more teeth. They swim up to and hover next to you all the while taking a keen interest in every aspect of your body and equipment, reinforcing the reasons for paying attention to not wearing anything shiny when swimming in those waters.

Fortunately, such surprises were not in store for me nor the fish off La Jolla. The water was warm, about 4 to 8 feet deep, and visibility was not great but good enough considering the circumstances. Amazing was being brushed by the seals darting after the fish I was watching or just playing about. A challenge was getting used to the water that continually surged back and forth - quite a contrast to swimming in Lake Placid.

San Diego is one of those communities gifted by the gods as the weather seems to be always perfect. Not far away, the temperatures can be in the high 90s and several places well over 100, but thanks to the breezes coming off the Pacific Ocean, San Diego is more temperate.

One outcome of the pleasant weather is a large homeless population visibly sleeping throughout the parks and along the streets. That was apparent during my early morning walks with Roger Hill, an architect working at Aesthetics and whose wife, Annette, founded the firm nearly 40 years ago. I also noted how electrified scooters for rent have taken over the city and radically reduced the number of people renting and using bicycles.

San Diego was an early adopter of creating lanes and parking spaces for bikes as a means of encouraging people to reduce their dependency on cars and get more exercise.

Like New York, Montreal and elsewhere, they installed lots of bicycle racks where one can pick up, rent and leave a bike.

A few years ago, rental bike manufacturers introduced bikes that can be left or found anywhere locating them via a phone app. And then came the electrified scooters loved by the general public. Users abandon them wherever they choose, resulting in a form of scooter-litter in the parks, neighborhoods and city streets, much to the dismay of many property and business owners.

To the further consternation of biking proponents in places like San Diego is that bike lanes are becoming filled with people zooming along on their electrified scooters and bikes. Imagine cross-country skiers having to share their trails with snowshoers, fat tire bikers and snowmobilers. It's a mix that doesn't work and it is starting to lead some cities to ban pedal-assisted bikes.


Rail-trail considerations

For those dreaming of a rail-bike trail, imagine if electrified bikes and scooters gain access to the same trails through the courts or passing constitutional land-use amendments, the experience will not be pleasant for all concerned.

In light of growing enthusiasm for these vehicles, their pushing out human-powered bicycles up here as they are doing in San Diego could happen in the near future. If the rail-trail is ever opened in the Tri-Lakes region, advocates for using electric scooters and bikes could be likely to test their "rights" in the name of accessibility and economic development. That being a likely possibility, I believe now is the time for the Adirondack Park Agency, state Department of Environmental Conservation and citizens advocates on all sides of the question to start discussing the impact of such usage and building in appropriate regulations.


Shrinking neighborhoods

It is better to be ahead of the trend than behind as communities and neighborhoods have discovered when, like Hillcrest Avenue in Lake Placid, seasonal rentals and Airbnb's have radically changed the character of an area.

Consider how Hillcrest once was a great neighborhood for families, not a statement that can be said today. In my mind, the whole School Street to the Mill Pond Dam neighborhood is likely to follow suit as it has excellent views and is convenient to downtown. A byproduct of the loss of such populations is the shrinking pool of people living within the village and able to serve on the village board and in other positions, much less being available to volunteer for agencies like the ambulance and fire department or have the opportunity to live near where they work or send their kids to school.

With that in mind, does having both a village and town government still make sense?

My trip out west was not to examine these issues. However, as I come to San Diego two to three times a year on business, I have the opportunity to see changes in the city not as a slow evolution, but as more abrupt steps that cause me to reflect on our community and what these changes may portend.

Planning anyone?



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