LAKE PLACID - A skateboard park owned by the town of North Elba on school property isn't covered by the same insurance as a hockey box down the road, which is why the two recreational venues have different sets of rules.
The town recently decided to give away the skatepark equipment, a move that upset some locals, including Dan Leff, a Lake Placid resident who helped fund and establish the skateboard park about five years ago.
Leff said the board's decision to give the equipment to the village of Saranac Lake represents a loss for the Lake Placid community. He stressed, however, that he's glad to see the Saranac Lake SkatePark Committee and elected officials step up and "make decisions to do what's best for the kids.
Kids don’t need adult supervision to use the hockey box on Lake Placid’s Main Street, unlike at the now-closed skatepark beside the Shipman Youth Center.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
"I'm really disappointed in Lake Placid," Leff said in a phone interview. "I think that throughout Lake Placid's history, when Lake Placid's elected officials have decided to lead, good things happened. I think it's unspoken, but clear, that having a skatepark in Lake Placid is not a priority of current town (and) village leadership."
Leff noted that a seasonal hockey box at the Olympic Speedskating Oval doesn't have fences, rules, supervision or "onerous insurance requirements."
North Elba Councilman Bob Miller told the Enterprise the town doesn't have any control over the school's insurance policy. He said he's not sure why an insurer would treat the skateboard park differently than the hockey box.
Peter Lynch of Gordon W. Pratt Agency in Lake Placid said the school district doesn't have anything to do with the hockey box. He explained that when the skateboard park was first set up, the school's insurance carrier didn't want to add it to its policy because of liability issues.
"What I did was go to several different brokerage houses, places to insure risks that are hard to place, and struck out on all of those," Lynch said. "Then I went to Dan Leff and said, 'Can you tell me who you purchased (the skatepark equipment) from?' and I went to the manufacturer and asked them to point me in the right direction."
Lynch said he eventually found an insurance carrier out of Illinois that would cover the park, but a lot of regulations had to be put in place, including strict supervision rules.
The property where the hockey box is located is leased to the town through a long-term agreement set up around the time of the 1980 Winter Olympics, according to North Elba town attorney Ron Briggs. He said, to his knowledge, it's the town's insurance that covers that property, not the school's.
"Why does the hockey box get treated differently? Well, the (insurance policy) underwriters assess risk for different activities, and they decide what risk they'll take and what they won't," Briggs said.
The skatepark equipment is currently located in a fenced-in area behind the Shipman Youth Center on land owned by the Lake Placid Central School District. The town used to pay the youth center $7,000 for supervision, which was required under the school's insurance, but council members believe that supervision drove away users. With no skateboarders using the park, the town decided to end supervision and lock the gate.
The park was designed by local skateboarders, including Leff's son Brian, and the equipment was purchased using a $100,000 state grant secured by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward with help from then-Supervisor Shirley Seney. Private donations were also used for the purchase.
Miller said the board appreciates the hard work that went into setting up the park.
"I don't want to take that away from them," he told the Enterprise last week. "I just feel like we've done the best that we could for the kids."
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.