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Massena man asks rec commission to consider opportunities for mid-teens

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MASSENA - With a proposal being considered to tear down the wooden playground on Danforth Place and replace it with newer equipment, a Massena man says it’s the perfect time to start thinking about recreational opportunities not just for the younger children, but also those in their mid-teens.

Joel Grigg told the Massena Joint Recreation Commission on Tuesday that the replacement of park equipment was geared for younger children, while recreational opportunities such as a skateboarding facility for junior high-age students did not exist in the community.

“We need to look at something for the older kids,” Mr. Grigg said.

He said that, despite some assertions otherwise, Massena was not a retirement community. He said that 23 percent of the population is under the age of 18, and their recreational needs needed to be addressed.

“I think we need to be careful about our rhetoric,” he said, noting “14-, 15- and 16-year-olds do matter to the community.”

Mr. Grigg said that during his travels he had met some junior high-age students who were skateboarding, and he asked them if they would use a skateboard facility if it was available.

“Yeah, I’d love it,” he said was their reply.

“I know a Boys and Girls Club is coming, but I don’t know if it’s going to have many activities like that. I ask you not to forget the older kids in fifth, sixth and seventh grade,” he told recreation commission members.

Mr. Grigg said he was also concerned after hearing about a possible waiting period between the time the current equipment is taken down and new equipment is installed. Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray recently said that not everyone was sold on the idea of replacing the playground, and some people would like to see the old wooden playground torn down and then wait six months to a year to see the impact on use of other community playgrounds.

He said had there been talk of waiting six months to a year for a new home for the Massena Senior Citizens between the time they vacated the former Lincoln Elementary School and moved to the Massena Community Center “there would have been hell to pay. To say to wait six months to a year is absolutely ridiculous,” he said.

Board members pointed out that skaters previously used the Massena Arena annex. But the Recreation Department’s budget doesn’t have room to purchase equipment, and there’s no storage space for that gear.

“Rich (Boprey, recreation director) did a fantastic job with skateboarders in the annex,” Martha Slack said, noting they were “very cognizant” of the need for a facility like that and continue to look at ways to provide it.

Mr. Grigg said he had heard that, if the wooden playground was replaced, the new equipment would not take up as much room. If that was the case, he suggested recreational officials consider siting a skateboard facility in the same area.

But Mr. Boprey said that wasn’t advisable because of the age differences between those using the playground and those using the skateboard facility.

“You want two separate locations,” he suggested, noting the facility, wherever it was located, should be visible and patrolled to ensure no damage was done.

Board Chairman David M. MacLennan said they would continue to look at possibilities.

“We won’t forget the youngsters, no matter what age they are,” he said.

Mayor James F. Hidy had asked Mr. Boprey to come up with three designs for a new playground, and those have been presented to the mayor, who said he plans to call a joint meeting shortly for the village, town and recreation boards to discuss the proposals.

Town officials have been asked to use casino gaming compact funds for the project, but they have yet to meet and make a decision until they hear how much the new playground will cost. Mr. Gray said recently that he wanted to ensure everything was in place if and when they decide to replace the playground.

“I would hate to tear down the old playground and not have plans ready to replace it,” he said.

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