As the City of Plattsburgh dives deep into its 2020 budget deliberations, one area they are expected to review closely is recreation.
In its history, the city has been able to offer the usual recreational opportunities with an assortment of parks, playing fields, a gym and, of course, the makings of a first-class beach.
But the venues have always been subject to public scrutiny.
Conditions of parks with long grass, buildings in disrepair and broken lights are among the complaints.
The baseball fields have long been a source of frustration for many.
The diamond at South Acres is a decent field, and Lefty Wilson Field at Melissa L. Penfield Park on Bailey Avenue is a beautiful park except for one thing: the center field fence is only 327 feet away from home plate.
What would normally be a routine pop fly in most high school or adult games, becomes a home run at Lefty Wilson, altering strategies and adding to the frustration of most pitching staffs.
The football field at Penfield Park is adequate, but needs upgrades in its scoreboard and bleachers.
The Little League fields at Penfield and South Platt are very nice and a plus for local baseball.
The Department of Public Works does its best to keep the fields and parks in good shape, but with staffing cuts and department adjustments, it has been challenging.
Recreation has always been expensive, not only for the city, but for any municipality.
The venues and programs are designed to provide quality of life to residents, but there is little opportunity to generate revenue.
When the Crete Memorial Civic Center served as an ice rink from the mid-1970s to 1999, it did so at a great loss each winter.
Ice time is expensive and the city opted out, leaving SUNY Plattsburgh and a private enterprise to provide ice for area hockey, figure and public skating.
The idea was to save money on ice time and utilize that cash to spruce up other recreation venues.
One venue that was to get more attention was the City Beach.
A jewel of a place, the beach is hailed as one of the best fresh-water beaches on the east coast, if not the nation.
Very popular with Canadians looking to escape Montreal’s summer heat, the beach is often packed full on hot summer days.
But city and Town of Plattsburgh residents get in for free, and revenue from non-city and town residents doesn’t add up to much, therefore the beach is a financial challenge.
In fact, this summer the city upped its beach rates for the first time in years, but those fees only increased about $2.
In weighing its recreational future, the city will have to consider all of its venues and which ones they want to sink money into.
The beach figures to be a top priority with its great potential for development and entertainment.
That would be a great choice, but development of the beach has to be an all-in venture. A half-hearted attempt to rehabilitate the beach will surely fail.
With resources devoted to the beach, that could mean even less attention on parks and playing fields.
We hope that doesn’t happen.
Victims in a recreation shakeup could very well be the Crete Civic Center and the City Recreation Department gym on the “Old Base” Oval.
The Civic Center’s roof leaks like a sieve and the base gym, as it is known, is old and could use some upgrades.
Closing the Crete would mean a new venue for indoor soccer and home shows will have to be found, and hopefully private enterprise will find a way to fill that need and make a profit.
We know no one wants to hear that the Crete and base gym will close, but it could be a reality.
The public demands quality of life for the property taxes they pay, and government will hear about it if taxpayers feel shortchanged.
So taxpayers and elected officials must all ask themselves the hard questions: what do we want? And are we willing to pay for it?