To the Times of Ti:
I read with great disappointment that the Ticonderoga town board is considering cutting the youth summer program in its 2012 budget. Three of our children attended the program this past summer and they had a fantastic experience. It is a great program and worthy of another look.
With obesity, particularly childhood obesity, becoming such a concern in our nation, there is nothing more important than giving our children every opportunity to get out and enjoy our outdoor resources. This program provides an opportunity for our town’s young people to do something active, enriching, and positive. And one of the best aspects of the program is the daily trip to the town beach on Lake George.
The Ti beach is the only public access that the town of Ticonderoga has on Lake George. We should be doing all we can to encourage its use. Bringing the summer program children out to the beach each day is an ideal way of encouraging children to make the lake a part of their lives. And with so many lakes and rivers in our region, children need skills like swimming and water safety that they get as part of their time at the beach. Just a few years ago, the Lake George Association helped secure a grant from Sen. (Betty) Little and managed the project to build a beautiful new beach building primarily to serve the needs of the hundreds of children who came out to the beach each day. The old building was just not capable of supporting the activity. The new building is attractive, functional, low-maintenance, and should not be allowed to drift off into disuse. It is a $100,000+ investment that should be utilized by all.
In addition to the time at the beach, the summer program kept the children active in other ways. They went bowling. They took walks. They played on the new playground. They biked to the beach. They played sports and took part in a track and field day.
The Ti youth summer program is also educational. The children learned bike safety. They spent time at the library. They were exposed to culture at the Arts Trek and Heritage Museum programs. They went out on the LGA’s Floating Classroom to learn about Lake George and our region’s environment which was provided to the children through a grant at no cost.
Many of the enriching activities cost little or nothing themselves. The program needs funding to cover the costs of the dedicated counselors who guide and watch over the children. Incidentally, this provides summer jobs for local college-age people which generate some economic development.
I encourage the board members to sharpen their pencils – and I know from my own work that that is a daunting task—and look elsewhere for places to cut, not the summer youth program. Our children should not be the ones who suffer from rising health insurance premiums, unfunded mandates and rising utilities costs.
This program provides activities, education, and supervised access to the outdoors. I don’t want to see us end up with a community of sedentary young people parked in front of the TV or video game all summer. Not every working family can find a way to get out and enjoy all the summer activities that this program offers.
I implore the board, don’t close down the program. Give the children an opportunity to get out and do something and enjoy our natural resources. Ask participants to chip in a little more to cover the costs. Seek more free or subsidized activities like the Floating Classsroom and Arts Trek. Find more creative ways to keep this valuable program. It’s one of the few things that we offer our youth in this area that is equally accessible to everyone.
Walt Lender, Ticonderoga
Walt Lender is executive director of the Lake George Association.