A Pirate Ship In Schroon: The Behind The Scenes Tale of Its Journey

There seems to be a compromise  -- of sorts  -- between a grass roots campaign to upgrade the playground in the Town Park above the Beach and the Town, who some say unexpectedly pirated their proposal.

And like any good playground ride, there were bumps along the way, with some unexpected swings. At the end, everyone (hopefully) enjoyed a soft landing. 

The headlines and background first. On Saturday, seemingly out of the blue, supporters of a grass roots effort to upgrade and add handicap accessible playground equipment  -- with found grant money -- were a little shocked to see a mighty pirate ship being installed in the very area, where their proposed plans had called for a playground upgrade.

That group, led by Sharon Piper, wearing one of her many hats as a Chamber of Commerce representative, had months earlier discovered funds were available for playground equipment with handicap accessibility. For weeks, Ms. Piper had been sharing details about her plan to apply for the grant with Town Supervisor Mike Marnell, who, says Sharon, was in favor of her plan all along.

But the arrival of the pirate ship took the grass roots effort by surprise: Mr. Marnell had shared his vision for the mighty ship with Ms. Piper, but never told her or the other organizers of the grass roots group, that he had purchased the ship from Glens Falls based Garden Time, on April 22 ( We saw the invoice).

Keep in mind this was just 48 hours before the group, armed with 176 signatures of support  in petitions, and a way to raise $15,000 of what amounted to free money, were preparing to present their efforts and their plan for a playground upgrade at the Town Board Meeting (yesterday,  Monday. June 8. ) An earlier effort to present the plans to the board by the new Executive Director of the Schroon Lake Chamber of Commerce, Patrick Siler  -- two weeks before  -- had caught the board off guard when Mr. Siler had presented a draft copy of the new upgrade plans.

Meanwhile, to make way for the pirate ship's Saturday installation  --  two playground favorites, a beloved spring-loaded duck and frog -- were ripped from the ground  and tossed to the side. The installation was performed by Garden Time, a huge supporter of the ADK Marathon, who each year provides the gazebo at the intersection of Main Street and Leland Ave. For those in the market for a similar ship, which costs a little under $3,000, click here.

Back to the story: As we had previously reported (in the story below) the grass roots effort plan was to be presented to the board last night (Monday) led by Shawn Baker, a local dad who thought it was just a great idea for Schroon kids, visitors and second home owner families to enjoy the playground upgrade.

Shawn was going to present their plans, how the financing would work and hand over  the petitions that overwhelming supported their design -- with diagrams of each piece of certified public playground equipment they were proposing for the upgrade.

In advance of the meeting, Mike Marnell said the following in a story published by Schroon Laker last week:

Town Supervisor Mike Marnell acknowledges the lack of support from the Town Board, citing  numerous reasons why the project should not go ahead.

"The foot print is too small for all of equipment, it's too close to the public restrooms, there's a chain link fence nearby and it’s too close to the hill, that would require putting a fence up.

"You need a large, flat surface for this. You need a lot of prep work, a good design. There's upkeep with mulch. This is just not the place".

Marnell said he would be in favor of the playground being moved closer to ice skating rink area -- across Leland Road -- further from the Town Park.

What we left out of that  report  -- but what Supervisor Marnell told us on the record  -- was the following:  that at one stage he had thought about installing a pirate ship, but had backed away from the idea because of the potential for vandalism to the ship. Our interview was on June 5. As we mentioned before, what we discovered when we talked to the Garden Time installers was that Marnell had purchased the Pirate Ship way before our interview on April 22.

So what happened? How did the installation of a pirate ship, which according to this Facebook post already has a lot of love, get approval by the board AFTER  Supervisor Marnell had already purchased it and had it installed?

It’s all a "big misunderstanding", says the  Town Supervisor. In a phone interview today,  Mike Marnell explained himself.

Schroon Laker:  So I believe there was a compromise reached last night at the Town Board meeting about the playground.

Mike: Yep.

Schroon Laker: So how did it all go down?

Mike: It went fine  after a while.

(The compromise, according to Shawn Baker, involves the addition of one single swing set, and the replacement of a non-working swing seat with a handicapped accessible swing seat, on a current, broken swing set. This would enable the current grant application to be modified and include the pirate ship and new equipment).

Schroon Laker: In terms of how the purchase came about, can you give me some background about the approval and how it came to be that you bought the pirate ship?

Mike:  In April the Chamber said they were getting a grant and …I saw the ship down there  (In Glens Falls at Garden Time) and I said : 'That's a good fit on the Lake.'

"I told Sharon Piper, who I saw  at the Essex County Tax Sale and I said: 'Oh, I ordered a boat. It's three thousand dollars." She thought I said $23,000, so last month they'd asked me what I was buying a boat for $23,000, so I checked the link and said, "No, it's not $23,000, it's $3,000. At last month's regular board meeting, it states: 'Supervisor Marnell stated the Chamber received a grant of $5,000 for playground equipment, and they would be replacing Schroon Lake equipment with something else. Supervisor Marnell has looked into purchasing a big boat from Garden Time, which includes a 10-foot slide, a ladder, a ship's wheel, fireman's pole and a trapeze bar. He wants to stay within the area that is there and not get any bigger'. "The board agreed, they do not want to expand the area, and is in full support of the idea."

Schroon Laker: When were those meetings?

Mike: That was (in) the minutes dated May 5th. That's pretty evident, it says in writing: "The board is in full support."  When they're in full support, that for me is a green light to go. If they said "No, we're not interested, we don't want to do it," I wouldn't have bought it. To top it off….it came Saturday and it appeared (to the public) that I said: 'Here, shove it, here it is. I said:' I wasn't even here.'

"First I said, "We'll just put it in the parking lot," but it weighed 3,000 pounds so I couldn't easily move it around. That's where it is (in its current location). They're going to put another swing set in.

Schroon Laker:  That's to get the grant, correct?

Mike: Yep.

Schroon Laker:  Is it  (the pirate ship) in the right position that you want it in?

Mike: I said (to the installers) "You have to be a certain distance from the chain link fence. Somebody falls out of the swing on a back swing and lands in the fence, got to be away from where there's little kids running back and forth, because these are big swings...

Schroon Laker:   Like I said, there's a lot of positive support on the (Schroon Lake) Facebook page for the pirate ship. People like it.

Mike: Yeah, it's cute.

Shawn Baker,  while not entirely pleased with the outcome, remains positive.

“We do get an extra swing set and in order to qualify for the grant, we will have the handicapped accessible swing seat.

“But as a father, I’m concerned about the safety issues involved with a structure (the deep hull) where you can’t see your kids. The bottom of the pirate ship is sealed, you really can’t see what’s going on. There's a lot of sick people in this world, we all just have to be more careful".

In the end the board voted Monday night to approve a resolution to apply for the original grant money found by Sharon Piper, to be resubmitted to include the purchase of the ALREADY installed pirate ship, a  new swing set and the installation of a new handicapped accessible swing seat.

Shawn hopes that there will be room in the future to upgrade the playground to include the quality equipment specifically built for public playground usage, which was included in his original design.

“My concern is that the Garden Time equipment is meant for backyard usage, not for an environment where it’s used by hundreds of kids every week".

One issue that concerns him is splinters from the wood, as it does Mike Marnell. (The good news is that the wood used is kid friendly)

"I was over there this morning. It's wooden, it's exposed, and it has the finish on it. Any piece of wood, you have to be careful, it could be a splinter, but we've got 200 feet of docks out there with wooden tops, and people are barefoot and they run on them. You could get a splinter. You've got to be careful, you've got to keep an eye on things, that's all there is to it," Marnell told Schroon Laker.

And as for the conversation last week, with Schroon Laker about vandalism concerns?

The rewards, say Marnell, out weigh the risks.

"Somebody could build a fire, (in the hull of the ship) if they do, they do I guess. Everything you've got could be vandalized. We talked about it last month...people like it. I was over there Saturday ... People I didn't know, asking them how they enjoyed it, they love it. Sunday, they were working on it. It's a fun thing".

Sharon Piper is happy about the compromise. "I'm glad it all worked out. This was always meant to be a fun project for the kids of this town. At the end of the day we got an upgrade to our swing set. In the future, who knows? We would like to keep pushing for an upgrade of the equipment."

And as for the future of two much beloved spring loaded rides: The Duck and The Frog?

Mike: I can put one frog back up, or duck, to entertain you.

Schroon Laker:  That's because someone told me that every summer the spring has to be replaced at a cost of around $400?

Mike: The kids go there at night, the big kids, they go like hell on them and break the springs. You've got a guy who weighs 200 pounds on there. They're expensive. We were going to take them out because we've bought springs several times on them. Last year I bought some automobile coiled springs, a softer spring. The little kids can ride them and big kids, they're (the spring coils) too soft, and they just flop out one side or the other. They haven't broke one yet on those. I'll have one up. It'll be right beside the pirate ship.

So what are your thoughts about this roller coaster ride of where we are today? Is it right to get Town Board approval AFTER something has been done? Is that following proper government rules and regs?  Tell us in comments!.