They are doing what?

Copake parks attract variety of naughty behaviors

COPAKE–Summertime… and the livin’ ain’t so easy near two well-attended parks in town.

The town’s Copake Memorial Park and the Taconic State Park in Copake Falls are popular places. But all that popularity, for different reasons, has caused problems for residents, who went to the July 8 Town Board meeting to look for solutions.

Diana and Bill Jamieson live next door to the town park on Mountain View Road. Their proximity allows them to see and hear much that goes on there–even those things that are usually reserved for more private settings.

Mrs. Jamieson told the Town Board that she and her husband often see people come into the park to dump their garbage in the park’s Dumpsters. When confronted, the offenders claim ignorance, they didn’t know disposal of private garbage was not allowed, she said.

Mrs. Jamieson then reported that her mother had witnessed five boys “smoking pot, selling pot and relieving themselves on park buildings.”

The marijuana smoking could not be mistaken for cigarette smoking because the boys were using a pipe and when they realized someone was watching them they just went around the backside of another building to continue their activities, she said.

Mr. Jamieson said he recently approached some youngsters who were riding their skateboards and bicycles in the ice skating rink and asked them why they were not using the skateboarding area of the park where they should be. The youngsters told him they didn’t want to play at the skateboard area because there were older kids there smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol. Mr. Jamieson pointed out that the skateboarding area is about 50 yards away from the Copake Police Station.

Mrs. Jamieson said she was reluctant to call police because they pull into her driveway in their patrol cars to take her statement and then the perpetrators know who called the cops–leaving her and her family susceptible to retribution.

She then went on to describe taking her dog for a walk in the park over the 4th of July weekend and her discovery of a bunch of condom wrappers in the Little League field dugouts. Surveillance cameras cover all areas of the park and Mrs. Jamieson said that following her find, she saw video footage that confirmed the activity she suspected had gone on in the dugouts actually did–sometimes in broad daylight.

Someone joked that they were happy that those involved were practicing safe sex and lamented, “They just don’t make cars as big as they used to.”

Mrs. Jamieson said she did not want the Copake park to become known as a place for unsavory activity.

Supervisor Reggie Crowley said he would make not only Copake Police, but Sheriff’s deputies and State Police aware of the situation and ask officers on patrol to get out of their cruisers, walk to the dugouts and check what’s going on in there.

In Copake Falls, near the Taconic State Park on Route 344, the problem for resident Eric Alberta is illegal parking. Instead of paying a $7 admission fee per vehicle to park inside the lot in the park, people are parking along the roadsides on private property.

Mr. Alberta lives on Cemetery Road, a narrow town road just west of the park. His property also fronts on Route 344 and he owns the building that houses the Bash Bish Bicycle shop.

In addition to the swimming area and other park facilities, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, the trail to Bash Bish Falls and the Depot Deli are all within the immediate area.

Several years ago the state cut back the number of parking spots in the lot adjacent to the rail trail, which begins just outside the park entrance. Parking in that lot is free and people are allowed to park there and walk into the park without paying an entry fee. But the free lot is often full, especially on weekends, and people now park along roads with little or no shoulder. That leaves parked vehicles partially in the road, creating a traffic hazard.

Mr. Alberta told the board he has been trying to make improvements to his property and keep it looking nice, but people are parking on it, creating ruts and leaving their garbage when they depart. He said it particularly irks him when he sees the owner of a $100,000 vehicle stiff the park for $7 by parking on his property.

Police Commissioner Jeff Nayer said that cars parked partially in the road can be ticketed by police for parking on the pavement. Mr. Alberta was hoping the town could install No Parking signs and even thought about putting up his own signs saying: “Private Property, $10 to park here, $7 to park inside the park, do the math.”

Resident Lindsay LeBrecht said the problem should be approached in a more “positive” manner, that visitors who come “up to country” should not be told “no, no, no,” but should be directed to the park in a more “user friendly” way.

Following a complaint about the downsized free parking lot at the June meeting, Councilman Bob Sacks said he spoke to Park Superintendent Ray Doherty and learned that no state parks have any free parking areas specifically for locals.

Councilman Sacks said that between 160,000 and 210,000 people a year typically visit the state park in Copake Falls. Noting that the park is good for the local economy, the councilman urged people to “go into the park, pay the money, the state needs the money.” A $65 Empire Pass allows a carload of people to get in all year and people who are 62 years and older get in free on weekdays with the pass, he said.

To establish a no parking zone, the town must clearly delineate and measure the zone and then adopt a local law enacting it. Town Attorney Tal Rappleyea agreed to draft the law; a public hearing on the matter will take place before the board votes on its adoption.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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