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Bringing People Together



By Rachel Dutil | Photos by Jessica McCafferty


Unlike other municipalities in the North Country that employ a part-time staffer to manage recreation programs, the town of Plattsburgh has two full-time employees to oversee its parks and recreation programs. Erin Pangborn serves as Youth Services and Recreation Director and Jordanne Manney is the Recreation Program Coordinator. The two stay busy with a wide array of programs and activities for youth and adults to keep them physically and mentally active.


“Our goal is to try to reach every person in our community in some way that they will enjoy. It’s not necessarily just sports, it’s the arts, it’s anything that will help their well-being both physically and mentally,” Pangborn said. “We offer programming from age one to 100.” Pangborn has worked for the Town for 13 years. She spent 12 years as the recreation program coordinator – the role currently held by Manney – before taking on her current title in January 2022.

Programs

“In the Town of Plattsburgh, the Parks and Recreation programs serve as a vibrant hub that brings the community together, promotes well-being, and elevates the overall quality of life for our residents,” Supervisor Michael Cashman said. “With a diverse array of multigenerational recreational programs that cater to individuals of all ages and interests, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of enjoyment and personal growth.”


In the winter, there are cross country skiing and snowshoeing programs for adults 18 and older. Equipment is available for people who don’t have their own and people from outside the town of Plattsburgh are welcome to join.


In the spring, there is a series of guided walks, mostly along paved paths to avoid muddy trails. “People are itching to get outside at that time of year,” Manney said. When walking programs are offered, there is always a lead person in the front and a second person in the back to accommodate participants of varying ability levels, Pangborn added.


During the pandemic, when programming could not be offered, the TOP (Town of Plattsburgh) Winter Challenge was created. From the first day of winter to the first day of spring participants were encouraged to move in any way they wanted – biking, walking, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, etc.— and a prize was offered for those who completed 100 or 200 miles in that timeframe. “We continued it because people keep asking for it every year,” Pangborn said, adding that nearly 70 people completed the challenge this year. “It’s keeping people moving and motivated.”


In summer, an outdoor fitness class is offered three times per week that focuses on cardio, yoga, balance, and stretching. Paddleboarding as well as organized group hikes are offered throughout the summer. Pangborn and Manney also host pickleball clinics and monthly lessons in kayaking. Scheduled kayaking trips take participants to Saranac Lake, the Chazy River, the Saranac River, and occasionally Lake Champlain.


Youth programming includes pickleball for teenagers and this year a new program for kids ages 5 to 8. The town also offers art camp, tennis camp, mountain bike camp, and Reader’s Rock camp in the summer for kids.


Youth programming aims to get kids interested in outdoor activities other than sports. “We do baseball, softball, basketball, and soccer with the county leagues,” Pangborn explained. “We also recognize there are other needs for kids out there. That’s why we’re trying to put new playgrounds in to get kids outdoors and interested.”


“We also added tie-dying outside to get people interested in the arts,” Pangborn said, adding that they hope to add more arts programming in the future.


Partners

Although Pangborn and Manney are full of great ideas and enthusiasm, the two of them can’t do it all, so the town relies on partnerships for some of its programming.


“We have great partners,” Pangborn said, listing the towns of Saranac, Schuyler Falls and Beekmantown. “We trade services with Cornell Cooperative Extension,” she added, noting that Extension leads archery programs because they are certified in it and Pangborn and Manney take 4H kids out to teach them kayaking. The town of Plattsburgh also works with the Master Gardeners to do youth programs such as bucket gardening and fairy gardens.


A recent collaboration with the Northern New York Audubon Society allowed for a series of birding classes. “The Audobon group goes out ahead of time and scouts the locations to determine where the birds will likely be and what birds might be there,” Pangborn explained. “It’s opening another door for people that are interested in birding.”


A series of family fun run/walks co-sponsored by the Foundation of CVPH take place at the Cadyville Park. There are eight runs over the course of the season and children who participate in five or more of the runs get a prize at the end of the series. There is a ¼ mile, 1 mile, and 5k course.


“We are partnering with Point au Roche for a program this year,” Pangborn noted. The Land, Sky, and Lake three-day program for kids ages 5-8 will teach about an ecosystem each day. “We try to partner with other organizations because there is no way we can get everything done with just the two of us.”


LaPierre Lane

The town of Plattsburgh has 11 parks plus a boat launch in Cadyville. “Every park in the town is unique,” Pangborn explained, adding that the playground equipment at all the parks will be upgraded in the coming years. The town board made the decision a few years ago to put money aside every year for playground units. It started at $50,000 but has increased to $75,000 per year. A new playground was recently installed at May Currier Park that has musical instruments with a canopy to protect it from the rain and sun, several different swings, and a spinning feature.


“The Plattsburgh Town Board has an unwavering commitment to strategic investments in our parks and the tradition of four seasons of recreation programing for all ages,” Supervisor Cashman said.

“It’s almost impossible to pick a favorite,” Manney said of the town’s parks. “Lapierre Lane has the river; West Plattsburgh has the pickleball courts, Cadyville has the trails; East Morrisonville has the dog park. It depends what you’re in the mood to do.”


Lapierre Lane is a spur on the Saranac River Trail. It has a natural playground, adult exercise equipment, a quarter mile path, a meditation area right along the river, and a boat launch.


In fall of 2017, the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at SUNY Plattsburgh was asked if any faculty had interest in wetlands and would be willing to work with students on educational displays for the LaPierre Lane Riverway. Wetlands Ecologist Dr. Mary Alldred who was in her first semester teaching in the Center gladly took on the project. “It was the first completed node of the Saranac River Trail Greenway in spring 2018, and it was located in a floodplain wetland,” Alldred explained. “The partners planning the park had taken great care to minimize disturbance to the wetland during its construction and wanted to highlight the value that wetlands bring to the community.”


Alldred works with her students each year to update signs ensuring that visitors always have something new to learn about when they visit the park. “It’s always fun to see what the students come up with, both stylistically and topics about wetlands that really resonate with them. I think it’s also great for science students to have an opportunity to be creative and to think through how to present scientific information in a way that’s going to resonate with local families that visit the park,” Alldred concluded.


Creating Connection For both Manney and Pangborn, one of the best aspects of their jobs is bringing people together and encouraging them to try new things.


“My goal is getting people out of their comfort zone,” Manney said. “When someone who’s never kayaked before gets out on the water, they may be a little nervous, but they come back asking when the next trip is,” Manney emphasized.


Pangborn echoed that sentiment. “People join us because they know we provide a safe setting. They are willing to try something new with us because they know we’ll be there and provide guidance and encouragement. Recently we had two ladies who didn’t know each other when they came to our first spring walk and now, they regularly play pickleball together,” Manney said. “It’s so nice to see people connect who never would have met and do activities they never dreamed of,” Pangborn added, noting that it is rewarding when people overcome their fears to try something new and meet new people doing it. “Socialization for adults and seniors is very important to their mental health and we are able to help facilitate that with a lot of the programs that we do.”


“In a fast-paced world, where social connections can sometimes be fleeting, our town parks and recreation programs stand as a testament to the enduring value of shared experiences and genuine human connections. The department’s commitment to the community is unwavering, and our tireless efforts make our town a wonderful place to live, work, and play,” Supervisor Cashman concluded.


Town of Plattsburgh Parks and Recreation 151 Banker Road Plattsburgh, NY 12901 townofplattsburghrecreation.com https://www.facebook.com/TOPRECREATION

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