To The Editor:
I have been involved with the Recreation Department and its programming for many years and in a variety of capacities. When I was in my early 20s, I first became familiar with the program when I applied for a position as a lifeguard with the local beaches. I was offered the job with one stipulation I had to become a Potsdam resident. It was one of the best moves Ive made. My love for this community, its programming, and its people was born that summer.
Over subsequent summers I became and have remained the Waterfront Director for the summer program. This is a job that Ive take great pride in over the years.
In the years since I first became involved with the program, I have had the pleasure of watching children grow into adulthood and Ive seen these same children return to the programs with their children. Ive seen children who were petrified of the water at 5 & 6 years old learn to swim in our program come back as teenagers and apply to be lifeguards. Ive seen kids who came to the playground program daily and ultimately moved away, then return to Potsdam as adults and parents so their children can have some of the same experiences they did when they were young. Ive watched kids who seemed to live at the arena during the late fall and winter grow into adults who fill the stands watching their own kids and grandkids play and skate...and then return to the arena for their own ice time.
I have also changed since I first became part of the Recreation Department. I am now a mother of three. I look forward to my children participating in the Potsdam Recreation programs (both summer and winter). My children have all learned to ice skate at the Pine St. Arena. They have watched hockey games there and the figure skaters practice as well. They have all learned to swim in the LearntoSwim program at either Sandstoner Park or Postwood Park, and they have all enjoyed the summer playground program, and they have LOVED swimming at Merritt Pool in the winter during the Community Swim that is sponsored by the Recreation Department. These are all fun things that my children enjoy and have taken advantage of for as long as they can remember. They are the same things I tell people about when they approach me and ask so what is there for kids to do in Potsdam? when they are thinking about relocating to the area. The childrens programing is a draw for young families interested in coming to this area with the hospital or area colleges.
My children have learned so much from these programs too. My own children (and the community children) have learned independence, they have learned problem solving strategies, and they have learned life skills and life lessons. They have also met some of the most amazing mentors I could have ever wanted for them from the playground leaders who have taught them how to solve issues with other kids, to the lifeguards who have taught them to be safe in and around water (both in the summer and in the winter), to Derek Greene and the maintenance department who have taught them to take pride in their surroundings and that there is always time to help someone out, to Tim Carey who is a positive and constant male figure, to the bus drivers in the summer (Diane and Jim) who constantly reinforce that you need to be responsible for your actions and that you need to be safe on the buses, and the employees at the arena who have taken the time to help my kids tie their skates when my hands were full. I am fortunate that my children have had all of these wonderful people in their lives but I am worried that moving forward the next generation of kids wont have this support.
I know that the Recreation Department and its programming have a significant cost attached to it. And I understand that these costs do financially burden the taxpayers in the town and village. I also believe that there are enough people in this community who benefit from and are willing to help support the Recreation Department and its programs as we move forward.
Having spoken with people over the years I know that there are community members who are willing to help out any way they can. I know that the Joint Recreation Committee may also have some ideas to better the programming while reducing costs. I also know that there are other people who may have great ideas that could help with funding. Perhaps its time to see what other options are out there that could supplement and maybe even reduce the cost of operation of the Department and its programs. I know that I have some ideas and am more than willing to help out anyway I can as things move forward.
I ask that Mayor Yurgartis, and Trustees Warr, Hopke, Gardner, and Tischler for the sake of Our children, to reconsider your involvement in the Recreation Department and all it has to offer they area youth!
Michelle L. Garrow