Potsdam skatepark project awaiting decision on leftover DRI money | Arts and Entertainment

POTSDAM — Village trustees on Monday evening heard a Saranac Lake village trustee’s suggestions for how to operate a proposed skatepark.

Potsdam’s proposal for a skate area on Fall Island at the site of the existing park is under consideration to be funded with unused money from the village’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.

The village is working with the St. Lawrence County Arts Council on the project, which is still in the early stages. The park would be behind the Fall Island parking lot. An SLC Arts committee is working with Canton native Matthew L. Mazzotta, who designs public recreational spaces, such as skateparks. SLC Arts Executive Director Maggie M. McKenna, who is also on the skatepark committee, said they’re waiting to hear if the state will award unused funds from two DRI projects that have been called off. They’re seeking $450,000 from the state for the new park.

“At this point, we’re waiting for the state to come back to the village. The village put in their desired allocation they want to get for the skatepark from the remainder of the DRI funds,” she said.

To cover the remaining $150,000 of the $600,000 price tag, Ms. McKenna said the committee is planning to launch a public fundraiser and “reaching out to local institutions and apply for some major grants to support the remainder.”

She said once the funding is in place, Mr. Mazzotta will host “living room meetings” for the public to give input on what the skatepark should look like.

“He literally sets up couches in the space for people to come and sit and chat,” Ms. McKenna said, adding that this is a big part of Mr. Mazzotta’s design process.

During the Potsdam Village Board of Trustees meeting Monday night, Saranac Lake Trustee Richard Shapiro talked about a skatepark his village opened about seven years ago. He said it’s been a huge success, and the skateboarders who use it do a good job of taking care of it.

“It’s been marvelous. It’s essentially the most-used park in the village,” he said, adding that there have been “no complaints whatsoever” and “no maintenance issues whatsoever.”

He said Potsdam’s proposed site is a good choice.

Mr. Shapiro suggested the finished skatepark be as open as possible.

“Don’t enclose it. Don’t require supervision. Don’t lock it,” he said, while not suggesting there shouldn’t be sensible rules for using the park.

He said skateboarders generally aren’t into team sports, but they end up in “cooperative competition” trying to out-do each other and also share tips and advice.

“They all want to improve … they work toward it,” he said.

Skateboarding events at the Saranac Lake park tend to draw crowds, Mr. Shapiro said, and bring in people of all ages from outside the area. They come from as far away as Syracuse, Rochester, Boston, New York City and Buffalo.

“People come from all over for this,” he said.

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