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spbench 120Friends of Salt Point member Susan Ruoff discovered Monday a park bench has been stolen from the north shore of Salt Point.  Thieves removed bolts that secured a security chain, then made off with the bench.  Park Superintendent Steve Colt says the theft has been reported to the Tompkins County Sheriff's Department, and he is taking other steps to ramp up security during the early park season.

"The bench was situated next to the Little Free Library on the north shore and had been a wonderful spot to sit and enjoy a book under the shade of the trees," Ruoff says.  "It is disheartening to have it stolen after all the volunteer work that went into it."

The bench, one of three situated around the nature park, was located in an area near the non-motorized boat launch area and parking lot.  All three 'Aldo Leopold benches' were donated by local 'Friends of Salt Point' with materials and labor donated by the Kendal Woodshop Group of Kendal at Ithaca.  The benches were constructed of locust wood.  At that time the president of the woodshop was Charles Wood, and the woodworkers were Bruce Calnek and Fred Warner.

The unique bench design is that of leading conservationist Aldo Leopold.  Widely considered the 'father of wildlife management and of the nation's wilderness system' Leopold also had a Lansing connection.  His son Carl was a leading plant physiologist at Cornell University, and his daughter-in-law Lynn is a Village of Lansing Trustee as well as one of the key figures that brought recycling to Tompkins County.  She and Carl were in the forefront of local conservation initiatives, including Greensprings Natural Cemetery, of which Carl was a founding member, and where he was buried upon his death.

spbench chainThieves unbolted a chain used to secure the Leopold bench to a concrete footing in Salt Point. Photos courtesy of Susan Ruoff.

This week Colt contacted Dennis Griffin, who works on park maintenance and security, to arrange for him to start working for the season.  He also asked Lansing Supervisor Kathy Miller to check with legal consul to see if Griffin can be given the authority to issue tickets.

"A warning doesn't seem to do much for most people," Colt says. "If they get a ticket it may mean more, or at least the word will get out."

Among the incidents reported in Lansing parks are complains about dog owners who are flaunting the Town's leash law as well as leaving dog waste on park grounds.  Lansing's leash law and park rules require dogs to be on a leash.  Colt says incidents are being reported in all the parks including the trail across from the Town ballfields.  Lansing parks have plastic dog-waste bag dispensers and waste receptacles provided.

"It's getting to be a nuisance," he says.  "Salt Point, Myers Park... Folks know what's right and wrong, and they know that if you are a responsible pet owner you've got to clean up after it, and always keep it on a leash because you have so much liability if something happens when they're off-leash.  Not only is it disgusting, but it's not healthy."

Colt says that if dog owners continue to act irresponsibly he may be forced to ban dogs from Lansing parks.

"I believe there are several parks around us that are 'no dog' and that's really the next step," he warns.  "Nobody wants to do that, especially around here.  Everybody in this office loves dogs.  Most everybody does, but it's a matter of common courtesy and respect.  If that doesn't happen we'll have to go 'no dog'.  People have to take more responsibility in a public setting."

spbench 400The bench was located in a shaded spot next to a 'Little Free Library' installation near a parking area on the north end of Salt Point.

Colt says that it is common for incidents to occur in the parks at this time of year, and again at the end of the season because there are fewer park-goers to provide the 'passive security' of many eyes and ears before the parks season really gets underway.  

"The bad guys know that.  If somebody is going to act out they're not going to do it when the teacher's in the room.  They're going to wait until they go out in the hallway," Colt says.  "The biggest thing is for everybody who likes these places to be vigilant and see things.  Don't take the enforcement into your hands, but simply take a license plate number and we'll turn this over to the people who enforce the law for a living."

Colt notes that many Lansing residents take crime in the town parks personally, because so many beloved features in Lansing parks have been built and donated by volunteers.  That includes Deputy Sheriff Pete Walker, whom Colt reported the theft to Wednesday.  Walker found and arrested vandals in 2013 who defaced portions of the town parks including the lighthouse, and school property in 2013.

"To the folks that donated the money, the lumber, the time... sure, it means a lot more to them," Colt says.  "Because it means a lot to them it means a lot to us."

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