Hotel site should be a park instead

To the editor:

Steven Sonnenberg’s commentary of March 10 (“Don’t damage waterfront vision”) gave us a lot to think about regarding the future of our village. Many of us have supported a scaled-down version of the proposed Lake Flower hotel, something about half the size of the currently conceived monolith that wouldn’t dominate Lake Flower and aggravate our traffic problems.

But Mr. Sonnenberg takes this an intriguing step further, and what he proposes makes sense. It was the nation’s outstanding team of landscape architects that, in the early 20th century, envisioned a waterfront park that would improve the quality of life for its residents and make the village not only an attractive place to visit but to stay. The Olmsted Brothers’ vision has been partly realized thanks to the persistence of our Village Improvement Society, which through the years has pursued the dream of creating a waterfront park along River Street.

Now we have an opportunity to extend the park to replace the three motel properties that the Lake Flower hotel developer seeks to purchase for his oversized building and parking lots. This expanded park would provide an appropriately beautiful approach to Saranac Lake from the east.

Sure, we will hear that the village can’t afford to do this, that we need tax revenue from that valuable property. In the long run, however, extending the park could bring far greater economic benefits by making Saranac Lake more appealing than ever.

Meanwhile, the born-again Hotel Saranac could satisfy our need for a conference center and ballroom, a place that would also accommodate weddings and wedding fairs, reunions of all kinds, a meeting place for civic and business organizations, with restaurants, bakery, coffee shop, and – why not? – a hotel-based guiding service (reviving an Adirondack tradition) for guests seeking the best places to fish, hike, paddle, ride bicycles, bird watch, snowshoe and cross-country ski. As Mr. Sonnenberg wisely concluded, “To preserve and enhance the livability of the village of Saranac Lake as a stable and desirable place to reside and recreate is to invite growth of a healthier nature.”

That says it all.

Rachel Rice

Saranac Lake