PLATTSBURGH — From walking trails to dog parks to ice rinks to programs, Plattsburgh City dwellers are craving recreation.
Officials canvassed residents from each city ward early this month, harvesting feedback as they map out a comprehensive master plan.
The six districts were divided into five virtual workshops, one shared by Wards 3 and 4, and were asked citywide questions, as well as those specific to their neck of the woods.
Topics grazed walkability, zoning requirements and development types, but each district had something to say about the city’s recreational opportunities.
According to Plattsburgh City Planner Malana Tamer, that trend predated the workshops and first began when the city launched its online survey on the same topic.
One question asked, “What do you feel is missing in your neighborhood?”
Survey takers were provided a variety of possible responses, including diversity, affordable housing, shopping convenience, transportation options, safety and security, job opportunities, open space and recreational resources.
Tamer said recreational resources had topped the list.
“Which I think is really interesting, because the city has 20-something parks, but people still feel that recreational resources are missing,” she said during one of the sessions. “I think we need to figure out, ‘Why do people feel that way?’”
The city planner believed the echoed response was a direct result of the city’s dissolved recreation department, recreation center closures and restrictions set in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responses during the city workshops reinforced those theories, like the residents of Ward 1 who bemoaned the City Gym’s nearly one-year-long, COVID-related closure. As of late last year, city officials were in discussions with the Plattsburgh YMCA regarding a possible management agreement.
Ward 1 resident Ira Barbell, a former Plattsburgh City councilor, said that U.S. Oval facility was more like a community center than a gym. He and other residents noted its pickleball leagues, social walking track, event space and variety of programs.
“We need to see that for what it is,” Barbell said during his ward’s workshop. “It is an extremely valuable resource to the city and this ward.”
During each session, residents were shown images of Lake City properties located in their specific ward that, for one reason or another, were underutilized. Attendees were encouraged to submit
development suggestions for the properties.
Residents of Ward 1 envisioned a Skyway Plaza “facelift” made of mixed-used development, including green space, seating and easy access to the commercial businesses there.
Ward 2 residents discussed the Fox Hill property, as well as some other wooded areas located nearby the Saranac River. Among their suggestions were walking trails, gazebo/outdoor seating opportunities and river access for activities like tubing, kayaking and canoeing.
Ward 3 residents noted the need for several recreational improvements, including updates to Melissa Penfield Park, sidewalk maintenance and pedestrian-friendly traffic conditions.
Those living in Ward 4 were asked about Plattsburgh Plaza on Route 3 and believed the space would do well with some refined zoning requirements. A large parcel of wooded property on Boynton Avenue was also in question and at least one resident saw the opportunity for high-density housing there.
Walking trails and/or light commercial development were discussed for a parcel off of Cumberland Avenue in Ward 5 and a roller rink and/or stage venue was suggested for some vacant warehouses located in Ward 6.
The former Seton Academy field location on North Catherine and Elm streets was also up for debate, which one resident envisioned as a dog park.
FOCUS EFFORTS, FUNDING
The various comments and conversations surrounding the city’s recreation, or the lack thereof, would help identify problems and pen solutions to better the city’s park system, Tamer said.
“Recreation is a large part of people’s lives and the city is responsible for accommodating those needs and desires of the residents,” she told the Press-Republican.
“Highlighting a need for a more robust recreation system in the comprehensive plan will allow the city to focus efforts and funding going forward.”
The city planner said each ward also expressed “overwhelming support” for more mixed-use development and design standards, which indicated a desire for change in how the city zones its neighborhoods.
Tamer has said before that this could allow for more “mom and pop” type pharmacies, grocery stores or convenience centers to exist alongside residential properties.
The city’s consultant Saratoga Associates, which helped coordinate the virtual workshops, was compiling the feedback.
They were expected to present a draft plan within the next few months, Tamer said.
“The plan will then be presented to the public for additional feedback,” she added. “We want to make sure we accurately capture their thoughts in our vision.”
Tamer said city staff was also beginning to draft changes to its zoning code, “which will be a direct reflection of the comprehensive plan goals.”
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