Every person in Plattsburgh owns a beautiful piece of lakefront property. We are talking about Plattsburgh City Beach, a stretch of golden sand on Lake Champlain that we should all cherish and protect.
Not that long ago, it seemed, the City of Plattsburgh underestimated the value of that exclusive piece of property. Former Mayor Dan Stewart, as forward-thinking as he was in many areas, even weighed the idea of leasing it out to Cumberland Bay State Park next door. That would have been akin to giving away family treasures.
This year, with help from a steamy summer, the beach is proving its worth. It has already recorded 17,000 visitors and $18,000 in revenue, with the whole month of August still to go, putting it on track for its best attendance in five years.
The numbers could be even better if the City Beach had opened before June 16. The sand had already been packed for a couple of weeks, thanks to temperatures in the mid 70s. When the weather is nice in early summer and the beach isn’t open, it is a police and safety issue for the city.
We understand that college-age lifeguards aren’t available in mid-May, but classes are certainly out by June 1. Maybe city officials could be more flexible about opening day during seasons where the weather is beach-worthy early. If they can get some local lifeguards to commit to start early, if needed, and if Public Works crews can prepare even a smaller section of beach, the additional revenue would certainly pay for the extra staffing. That would leave more people satisfied, make more money for the city and provide more time for word to spread about Plattsburgh’s lakefront jewel.
Recreation Director Steve Peters has already extended the beach season at the other end. When he started in 2008, the City Beach was normally open for 66 days. This year, it is schedule to be open 86 days. The beach used to close in mid August when lifeguards started to head back to college. But, since 2009, Peters has secured every lifeguard he can find to keep the beach open until Labor Day.
It’s not just cooperative weather that makes a beach appealing. City crews deserve credit for maintaining cleanliness, and the Recreation Department has added some popular new programs, including a beach volleyball league and zumba on the sand.
A lively beach environment will entice people to return, and vendors Smooth Moves, Kayak Shack and Cabana Beach Bar add to the atmosphere.
The city has also extended the available beachfront. Storm debris rearranged the beach last year, and the expanded area created then was maintained this year.
It is a long way from its heyday, such as 1983 when 115,000 visited the site, but city officials now seem to recognize what a valuable asset they have in the City Beach.