Myers Park

Some people get excited by the state lottery.  Some people wait in line for days to be the first to get a new iPhone.  Here in Lansing, people line up to get the best spots at Myers Park, and the time to start lining up is right after New Year.  January 3rd is the day the Parks and Recreation Department begins taking pavilion reservations, and camp site reservations and the marina lotteryfollow close behind.  Let the fun begin!

"Here we are at the end of 2016 and we're already planning well into 2017," Colt says.  "The way the holiday falls this year the Monday, January 2nd, we come back this year there's no school.  The very next day we'll start taking pavilion reservations for 2017.  That is a good sign that Spring is not terribly far away."

It's not iPhones that people are waiting for at the Town Hall parking lot.  Enthusiasts get an early chance to camp out as they vie for the beginning of the line to reserve Myers park campsites.

"We actually have people camp out in the parking lot here two, three or four days in advance just so they get the camp site reservation they want," says Park Superintendent Steve Colt.  "The door opens January 9th in the Town Hall at 7:30.  I have a 'take a number' machine like you would see in a deli.  I put it outside our door, and they take a number and go in the courtroom to wait.  We call them in numerical order and go through the process of reserving the campsites every year."

Myers Park has 19 sites, each with public water and 30 amp electric service.  Some have more shade, but they are all about the same size near the entrance to the park, along Salmon Creek.  The camp sites attract people from the Binghamton area, Cortland, and northern Pennsylvania.  While a few rent camp sites for the whole season, most rentals are are a week at a time.  Colt says few people camp in the old fashioned sense, in tents.  He says most bring big RVs with sliders, air conditioning, and multiple rooms.

"Roughing it camping has kind of gone by the board," he says.  "One year we had somebody from somewhere in Asia around Cornell graduation time.  It's interesting.  Some of the faces are like family -- they come back every year.  And then you always meet new people."

Colt says campsite use starts slowly in May, but the sites entirely fill up starting around June, all the way to the end of the season on Columbus Day weekend.

"Of course the phone is ringing off the hook, but we try to service the people who are actually here first, and then we'll handle phone call," he says.  "We'll take quite a few reservations that day if it's like past years."

Every three years there is a rush to get in on boat slips on the other side of the park.  A lottery is held for slips in the town marina every three years.  Each lottery is a total reset -- everyone has the same chance of getting a space, even if they have rented space there in the past.

It's not just a matter of getting a space -- it's a matter of getting a space that fits your boat.  The next few days after the lottery is like planning a wedding with a seating chart.  Colt and his staff take the first winner and find a slip that fits his or her boat.  As they work through the pile of envelopes they continue to fit boats to slip sizes.

So it's possible to win a spot in the lottery but not get a slip when all the slips for your size boat are filled.  And Colt says it is vital that you accurately measure your boat when you apply, because once the lottery is done, if your boat doesn't fit there won't likely be a space where it will.

"We have 70-some spaces, but there are only a few spaces that can fit the super-big wide boats," Colt says.  "Somebody can say 'I was drawn in the top 20.'  That doesn't mean you're going to be lucky.  If the first 15 in front of you are also large boats you can be in the top 20, but there is no place for you."

To get in on the lottery you get an application from the Parks and Rec Department.  Applications are sent with a check enclosed, but the envelopes remain sealed.  On the lottery evening of January 9th they are placed in a bag or a box to be pulled out blindly on lottery night.  As each envelope is drawn a number is written on it.  Over the next few days they will be opened in numerical order.  You don't have to be at the drawing to win, but a lot of people do come, and there is a lot of celebration by people who win the lowest numbers.

Colt warns that it is really, really important to provide the right boat dimensions on your application.  Not doing so could spell disaster, even if you get a winning lottery number.  Some years ago a boat owner estimated, and when he tried to put his boat in the water that Spring it simply didn't fit.

"We got this call, very upset, saying they couldn't get their boat in the slip," Colt recalls.  "I said I'd be right down, and the first thing I grabbed was a tape measure.  When I got there they had a sheepish look on their face.  I think we were able to move some people around to take care of them, but the fact is, if you don't measure right it may not work out for you, and good luck trying to find a place somewhere else."

Prices in Myers Park are competitive.  The boat prices hadn't gone up in at least three years, but will bump up slightly next year.  Colt says he tries to hold the marina prices steady throughout each three-year term.  The non-resident rate in the marina next year will be about $44 per foot, and the resident rate will be around $38 per foot.

The lower resident rate is a nod to the fact that residents can not be given preference in the lottery.  That's because the marina was originally funded with state money.  A condition of the funding was that everyone would have an equal chance of getting a space there.

This year Finger Lakes Marina, which abuts Myers park, remodeled their property, and Colt says it will offer up to date accommodations this Spring.  But the park marina has also been remodeled over the past three or so years.  The upgrade didn't mean more slips, but by making the docks narrower the slips were made a bit wider.

"Our highway department did a great job and saved us tons of money," Colt says.  "They narrowed the docks.  Some of the docks were so long and wide you could have landed a plane on them!  They just didn't need to be that way.  With boats being wider than ever, it was the perfect time to cut them down a bit gain some more real estate."

Camping rates will also bump up slightly from about $25 a night to $28.  Non-resident park admission will also go up from $4 last year to $5.

"That's where it will stay," Colt says.  "It's a nice round number.  We've made an awful lot of improvements to the park and put a lot of money into it.  It's every penny of a five dollar park.  And of course our residents, with proof, get in at no charge.  And we will offer a season's non-resident pass for around $40.  That gives them unlimited trips."