May 6, 2012

Spreading the word about recreation

Colin Read: Everybody's Business

---- — The Vision2Action group recently completed its second public forum, this time on a vision for recreation in Clinton County.

Some of the details and discussion were absolutely thrilling.

One of the key elements is the inauguration of the Saranac River Trail. This trail, that now runs from Plattsburgh State to downtown, is now essentially complete. It is an amazing mile of scenic walkway, bikeway, runway or just about any way you can imagine.

It follows the bank of the Saranac River through a university of significant history, past cemeteries and historic battlefields, and continues along Pine Street to the edge of the downtown core. Eventually, as NYSEG completes its work, the trail may run right to the center of downtown.

Meanwhile, the Town of Plattsburgh is beginning discussion about how they could extend the trail farther west, toward the former Clinton County Airport and Saranac.

Already, this trail is a tremendous city asset, thanks in no small part to the support of Mayor Kasprzak and years of effort by its engineer, Kevin Farrington, and his team of volunteers.

This is the stuff of those who dream and who work for years to realize a dream that benefits all. Check the trail out for yourself. You will be impressed. You can even see it at on YouTube.

But wait, there's more. Whitewater kayakers have long appreciated both the quality and the accessibility of the Saranac River rapids. There is an idea afoot to tailor the rapids through Plattsburgh near the Bridge Street bridge. Imagine the opportunity such a world-class whitewater run would provide.

Kayakers can experience exciting runs while we watch and bask in the sun from a blanket on the grass adjoining the river. Such a facility will be just one more reason why our city is increasingly becoming a destination in itself, not just for its access to other destinations.

All these visions have greater importance than to just kayakers and spectators. They are designed to allow us to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.

The outdoors is a great way to reduce stress and increase healthfulness. Unfortunately, we as a nation are becoming increasingly sedentary, and instead rely on medical technology to keep our tickers ticking. We see the symptoms of our lifestyles in the dramatic rate of obesity and the increase in diabetes. These diseases are beyond epidemic proportions and are increasingly burdening our already stretched and costly health care system.

A modest investment in recreation will pay great dividends. We all have a stake in those outcomes. Our children have an even greater stake.

This opportunity is so significant for our region's sustainability that we should not rely on the energies of a few devoted individuals. Now is the time for us to connect these ideas, as we connect the various trails. Our entire county will benefit and should participate.

We have youth programs at the Crete Center, health programs at the town and county, sports programs and programs at our schools, our hospital, our local Y and our assisted-living homes. Yet, we don't have an entity that helps coordinate all these efforts.

The consolidation of a recreation vision can mean we don't have trails here or there, but rather a network of trails that join.

We don't even need more money. If we pooled the money already invested, and allowed people in all different areas to focus on one type of activity, we can harness our energies more effectively.

Meanwhile, we would be able to market these shining lights so more could benefit. Did you already know about all these resources? Did you know about the problems of a sedentary lifestyle in Clinton County? Do you read often about opportunities, not within an hour's drive, but right here in the Lake City?

If you do, you are probably already hooked up and wired in to all that's possible. If you don't, we have not done a good enough job getting the word out.

The time has come for a recreation and quality-of-life citizens authority. This is our county and our future. If we can't do this for ourselves, we may miss an opportunity to create our own future, county-wide.

Colin Read is the chair of the Department of Economics and Finance at SUNY Plattsburgh. His tenth book, Great Minds in Finance — the Efficient Market Hypothesists, is coming out this fall. Continue the discussion at