(Editor's note: This is the first installment of the Lake Placid News Editorial Board, which is designed to showcase one-on-one conversations with community leaders and policy makers in the Olympic Region.)
Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn spoke with village of Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall on Thursday, March 6 at the LPN office on Mill Hill. Randall operates the Northway Motel.
LPN: What's your message going to be when you give the Community Spotlight presentation to the Adirondack Park Agency Board of Commissioners on Thursday, March 13?
Lake Placid Mayor Craig Randall poses with the historic Lake Placid News editorial board. (Photo — Andy Flynn)
MAYOR: I just spent some time with Jim McKenna's people (Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism) on a couple of issues. While I was there, I was starting to develop a presentation video because I'd like to have something running that's showcasing some of what we deliver to people pitching Lake Placid when we want to bring conferences here. My bet is a lot of people will be surprised and don't even know what we pitch. As a backdrop to other parts of my presentation, it's helpful to know, since that's our primary business, what we're saying about Lake Placid to people that haven't been here.
Along with that, with the comprehensive plan coming out, I'm looking at some of the elements in there and have some discussion and talk a little bit about what the community sees as things it would like to have to move the community along for the next dozen years. I think the demographics of Lake Placid are not contrary to the demographics of the Adirondack Park. We're not growing rapidly, and we're seeing that the demographics are moving more and more toward an aging population. And yet we're a community that works with youth, athletes and everyone else. So there's some interesting contrast there.
I want to, if I can, draw the picture for them of how all of our different structures collaborate with each other without even thinking about it. But it's what makes this work. It's why we're able to send nine Olympians from the area to Sochi. It's why 41 percent of the (U.S. Olympians) in Sochi passed through our facilities - because we have something that really works. It's a vital component to the legacy of Lake Placid.
LPN: If money was not an obstacle, what's one thing you would do to benefit Lake Placid the most?
MAYOR: That's easy. Right now, the biggest interest and wish that I hear about continuously is for more parking in Lake Placid. The business community would like to see a parking garage on Main Street. I can say that, since I have taken office, we have pursued and continue to pursue opportunities to make something happen along that line. To some degree, it involves perhaps the acquisition of some additional land that hasn't become available to us yet. I think in other cases, it's figuring out how to fund it in a reasonable manner. I think some people think that a parking garage will simply amortize itself, but if you study cities where the parking garages are constructed, quite often that's not the case. And while we have huge demand for parking in the high points of our summer season and at certain other holiday periods, there are also lengthy periods in Lake Placid when those spaces would be largely unused. So we have to be careful.
The development of additional parking is very much a priority with me, but I think we also have to be prudent with the resources of the taxpayer to make sure we're doing the right thing. Having said that, and just having gone through Presidents Weekend and seeing how crowded we were, we do have some parking available to the village which does not get very good utilization, and most of it is free. But it's on the fringes of the village. It's not right on Main Street or in the center where people most want to be. And I have been discussing some ideas with my board members on how we handle, even now, those kinds of conditions a little bit better by trying to draw people's attention to places that they can park that A) are free and B) where their vehicle is going to be safe. So we continue to struggle with that.
The whole area around the speed skating oval, the beach park and obviously the Olympic Arena at times, is a congested area. Upper Main Street is a congested area. The question is, what resources can we bring to bear to create parking that will address the needs in an optimal way? I happen to think that we need balanced parking in the village. ... This winter, we've had a huge success with the skating walk that's been produced on Mirror Lake. And I would guess on a nice afternoon that that's creating 50 additional cars in that neighborhood that are trying to park.
LPN: Will Lake Placid ever get another Olympics? That question must be posed to you a lot. What do you tell people?
MAYOR: I tell them that we look at the scope of the Winter Games now and what they've become, and the majority of sites are going to be cities that have much larger economic bases to support that activity. However, Lake Placid continues to hold world events every single year, and our venues continue to be relevant in the world. They're some of the most competitive in the world, and we are going to continue to derive a certain flow of world events, whether they are Olympics or something like a world university games. These are all possible for us and practical for us. I've spoken some in recent years about the world Winter Youth (Olympic) Games, which is an International Olympic Committee-sponsored event. The first of those was held in Innsbruck (Austria) a little over a year ago. It was very, very successful. The scope of it is about 1,400 to 1,600 youth. We had the Empire State Games here, and we had that many youth registered for that event. We can easily handle it. The infrastructure pieces that might come about from an award of something like that might be further upgrades of our venues. It would certainly involve the development of housing because they have to be housed while they are here. ... There's a need for affordable housing in Lake Placid. ... And the only way we're probably ever going to get to a point where we can create that kind of opportunity is with another event that has those kind of requirements.
LPN: If you were to become a Winter Olympian, what sport would you compete in to represent the U.S.?
MAYOR: I think the heart and soul of Lake Placid is, to a large extent, bobsledding. I look at our bobsledders with great heart and interest. Bobsledding goes back to the days of the Stevens brothers and the Tylers, and it's always been something that I, as a child growing up, was aware of from my earliest days. I think bobsledding is something that I think would be neat to try to do. At my age, I probably will never do it. Other than the occasional ride on a bobsled, and those are with safe drivers, I don't expect that I'd get to compete in that.
Growing up, I skated. I enjoyed speed skating a little bit. My father was a speed skater. He grew up and skated with Charlie Jewtraw and those people. And when you mention the name Charlie Jewtraw, that's basically where I think some of the ideas of bringing the Olympics to Lake Placid to 1932 actually got started. When Charlie went to Chamonix, France, in 1924 and came home with the first gold medal in speed skating, that was a big deal, and it's still a big deal today. And yet, I wonder, if Charlie were available to us today and we asked the question, "Did you think you'd ever do that?" he'd probably say, "No. We were just skating on the Mill Pond." From what my father related, because he was born around the same time, that's what they did for pastime and recreation.
LPN: The governor's coming to town this weekend for the Adirondack Winter Challenge. I assume that you're going to be doing something?
MAYOR: The town and the village have been asked to produce a couple of teams, and we're hopeful we're producing eight individuals that will spend Sunday afternoon with the governor's group doing a variety of things. They can either go out to Whiteface and participate in little slalom race. They can go out to the bobrun and participate in some bobsledding activities. or they can go out to the nordic cross-country facilities and participate there. The fourth option is a group of different things that will take place at the Olympic Center. I, for one, happened to notice that they were offering curling. I've never done that, but I just thought it would be something neat to try to do. I haven't been on skis in 20 years, so I'm going to try curling. Sen. (Betty) Little whispered to me that she was thinking about that, too.