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Nostalgia or a glimpse of the future?  A postcard image of Saranac Lake's old swimming beach.  Image:  Lake Flower Beach Return Facebook page
Nostalgia or a glimpse of the future? A postcard image of Saranac Lake's old swimming beach. Image: Lake Flower Beach Return Facebook page

Bring back Saranac Lake's traditional swimming beach?

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Drive through North Country towns this time of year and one of the biggest attractions is the local beach.

Sometimes it's on a bend in a river. Sometimes it's on the shore of a mountain lake.

A beautiful place to swim and escape the heat can also be a kind of community meeting place this time of year, a place for friends to connect, and a draw for tourists.

In Saranac Lake, people have grumbled for years about the current village beach -- and some say the local swimming hole should be returned to its old location downtown.

Shawn Boyer, who grew up in the village, organized an informal group called "Lake Flower Beach Return."

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

People gathered here. It was a walking beach. People can walk to this area just carrying a towel over your shoulder and a backpack. -Shawn Boyer
Standing on the shore of Lake Flower, a dammed section of the Saranac River, he recalls the time decadews ago when people gathered here on summer days.

Village trustee Paul Van Cott (L) with Shawn Boyer, creator of the Lake Flower Beach Return Facebook page. Photo: Brian Mann
Village trustee Paul Van Cott (L) with Shawn Boyer, creator of the Lake Flower Beach Return Facebook page. Photo: Brian Mann
"I do remember.  I been here over 47 years and I recall swimming here many times.  Very cold obviously, in the mornings, but a very nice place for people to gather and have all kinds of fun."

Boyer is working on this project with Paul Van Cott, a trustee on the village council.

"I remember it too.  I've got 54 years into it and came to the beach as a kid.  We were summer people.  My mom would come into town and drop us off here and we would spend the day.  It was a great place.  It's worth looking at to see whether it's something the community as a whole wants to bring back."

The beach was moved in the 1970s when the highway along the waterfront here was widened.  The "new" beach at Lake Colby has its fans – but it’s outside the village.  Most people have to drive there. 

And a lot of Saranac Lake locals have just never liked the new location.

But moving the beach back here won’t be easy.  With the state boat launch nearby, and the highway, it’s already crowded, with too little parking.  

"Parking is probably one of the more difficult issues," Van Cott says.  "That would be one aspect of the feasibility study that a consultant would have to look at."

The beach project has turned into kind of a social media phenomenon.  Shawn Boyer launched a Facebook page last year that has about 3,000 friends. 

And all those people have raised money to help the village pay for that feasibility study – almost $5,000

The current beach location, on Lake Colby, has long faced criticism from many locals. Photo: Mark Kurtz
The current beach location, on Lake Colby, has long faced criticism from many locals. Photo: Mark Kurtz
"They've posted all kinds of photos," Boyers says.  "They've posted old photos of the beach and when they were young and some postcards.  It was a hub of the village.  People gathered here.  It was a walking beach.  People can walk to this area just carrying a towel over your shoulder and a backpack."

Van Cott says the village is expected to vote soon on moving ahead with the feasibility study.  He says there are local residents who don’t like the idea. 

Some think the current park should stay as it is – a green space and not a beach.  Others think the Lake Colby beach on the outskirts of the village is just fine. 

There will be plenty of public meetings to hash out the details, but Van Cott says a beach could serve as a real summertime engine for the village's downtown, possibly even attracing a new hotel nearby.

"We really just need to get all the facts, find out what all the facts are, and then get the public involved," he says.  "I think there's a lot of potential in terms of tourism and making this a destination."

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