Montgomery County

Skate law may not be in line with Fort Plain’s future 

Zach Walsh, 11, right, and Aiden Santore, 7, with their father Ryan Santore, who would like to build a skate park at Wiles Park, where they are standing.
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Zach Walsh, 11, right, and Aiden Santore, 7, with their father Ryan Santore, who would like to build a skate park at Wiles Park, where they are standing.

FORT PLAIN — If you skateboard or rollerblade in the Village of Fort Plain, you could end up spending 15 days behind bars.

This penalty, spelled out in a 1993 village law banning skateboarding and in-line skating without permission, may be the biggest obstacle facing Ryan Santore, a 30-year-old resident, on his quest to build a skate park in Fort Plain. However, village leadership, including the mayor, say they are open to hearing more about Santore’s plans. Public discussion on the issue is expected to ramp up at planning and village board meetings in January.

Santore, a U.S. Army veteran who is originally from Schenectady, just moved with his family to Fort Plain from Texas in September. He said he likes that the village is quiet, the people friendly, but he misses having a place where he and his sons can skate — and skate safely. He said there are dozens of other people in the village who feel the same way, and that’s why he wants to build a skate park. The project’s Facebook page had 39 likes and 60 followers, at the time of writing.

“My kids like to skate. I’ve been skating for 17 years, and skating is, at least in my personal experience, a good outlet to keep kids from doing dumb stuff,” Santore said. “There are about 15 kids I see skating around here. And skating in the street is very, very unsafe, and there isn’t an empty parking lot or a park that is safe enough for them to skate in.”

Not to mention the fact that skating in the village without permission is technically illegal, even if the law isn’t heavily enforced.

“It shall be unlawful for any person to use, operate or ride a skateboard on any village streets, sidewalks or parks within the village at any time or on any private property within the village without having first obtained the permission of the landowner,” the law reads. The penalty is a fine of up to $100 for the first violation and a fine of up to $250, plus up to 15 days imprisonment, for the second violation, the law states. The same rules apply to in-line skating.

Tolga Morawski, the vice-chair of the planning board who has lived in town for more than four decades, said the 1993 law was put in place in reaction to skateboarders at the time damaging curbs, railings and marble staircases in the village, which was incorporated in the 1830s.

Morawski said the village’s board members and police officers, “were so overwhelmed at the time that they just put down a blanket ban.”

But Morawski said things have changed since the early 1990s, and the community’s leadership and law enforcement is interested in fresh ideas.

I think the Planning Board is open to seeing what they are putting together,” Morawski said of Santore’s skate park idea. “We’re receptive to making the community more welcoming to people who skate.” That includes, if necessary, amending the 1993 law in the process, Morawski said.

Mayor John Vesp also said he’s willing to listen.

“You’ve got to talk things out. If somebody’s got a plan that’s feasible, I’ve got no problem with it. As long as it’s not costing the taxpayers a lot of money. That’s my main concern,” Vesp said.

While Santore said he is very much in the planning stages, he has identified Wiles Park as a possible location, which Morawski said is a logical choice because of the open space.

Santore said he has communicated with a few contractors who could possibly build the skate park, and he’s looked into some grant options to help fund the project, but he’s been told he can’t move forward with either of these steps until he has buy-in from the village.

That may very well mean the village will have to change its skating laws. Vesp said such a change is a possibility, however he would be wary of having the quaint village being overrun with people on wheels.

If you could have an isolated, private place, I’ve got no problem with that. As long as they aren’t disturbing everybody else,” Vesp said.

Santore argues that having a skate park could actually create more peace in the community.

“I’d rather a kid be skating at 2 in the morning under floodlights [at a skatepark] than breaking into a building doing something stupid,” he said.

Santore’s 11-year-old son, Zachary Walsh, said he likes to skate because it’s a challenging physical activity that he can do with his dad.

“It’s a fun thing that I can do, and I’ve got my dad to help me if I need help with it,” Walsh said. “It’s also just something fun for me to do to pass the time.”

In addition, Santore argues a well-built skate park could be a boon to the community, drawing visitors who would patronize the village’s shops and restaurants.

Christopher Kazilas, 30, who has owned the Gamer’s Revolt hobby shop in the village since 2018, said he is supportive of the skate park idea for that very reason. Plus, he believes that skating is a good stress reliever, and a less stressed community is a healthier community. That’s why Kazilas said he would even be willing to pay higher taxes to get the park built.

“I don’t see why not because that’s something that we could physically see and go enjoy that our tax dollars would be going to,” Kazilas said.

For now, the next step is to discuss the skate park idea and the skate law at public meetings, according to the mayor.

“We’ll probably wait till someone shows up and requests something. That’s what we’re there for,” Vesp said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News

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