Colonie resident Aaron Bush often strolls through The Crossings of Colonie as part of his exercise routine. Every once in a while, he brings his dogs to the 130-acre public park or visits the weekend farmers market.
He’s also an avid spinner, using a wheel to turn wool into yarn in his free time. Bush decided to call up some of his friends to meet him at the park Saturday, June 22, for a nice, early morning of conversation and spinning. The group assembled together with their spinning wheels under the park’s gazebo, facing the pond.
“I didn’t think it would be a big deal for us to just get together and spin for a little while and maybe hit the farmers market,” Bush said.
As the morning grew warmer and the small group enjoyed the shade of the gazebo, a park staff member drove up to the spinners on a golf cart.
“Literally his first words out of his mouth were, ‘What are you doing?’ in a tone that sort of set us in this weird mood,” Bush said.
Bush said the man told the group they needed a permit to sit under the gazebo, even though there was no sign hanging in the gazebo saying so and they were the only group in it. Bewildered, the spinners moved away from the gazebo, finding shade on the grass nearby. The gazebo stared back at them, completely empty.
“It’s one thing to not know the rules and explain the rules to someone, but we were barked at. That’s literally what it was. Our issue is not that the park requires a permit to use the gazebo, it’s that it wasn’t clearly posted,” Bush said.
Bush said he later checked out the park’s website, and it is not clear that a permit is required, either. It is stated that “groups over 20 must obtain a permit” and “use of facilities and pavilions at The Crossings requires a permit.”
“We’re not really an organized group. We’re just a bunch of friends getting together on a Saturday morning,” Bush said. “I’ve gone there last year on a number of occasions with my spinning wheel to sit in the park and enjoy the morning. And even by myself, I remember sitting under that gazebo once and nobody bothered me.”
Both Bush and another group member, Teri Conroy, have blogs on the Times Union website and wrote about their frustrating experience. Town Supervisor Paula Mahan said she read the blogs and spoke to Alicia Osur, the director of parks and recreation, about the issue. She said since the blog postings, Osur has written a letter of apology.
Mahan said the gazebo is a common area and for public use, not requiring a permit. She said the only time the facilities need a permit is if it is reserved for a special event, like a wedding.
“Unfortunately that was a bad decision on the staff’s part. They should not have asked the people to leave,” Mahan said.
Mahan said she advised parks and recreation to put up some type of signage when the gazebo is reserved.
“If it’s not, it’s open to the public. It’s unfortunate that these people experienced this because our staff over there does a fantastic job. Everyone that goes there loves it. (The staff) do a great job on the maintenance of it and keeping it beautiful for people to enjoy,” Mahan said.
Since the issue, Conroy said in an email she has no plans to return back to The Crossings and will take her spinning to a park in the Village of Altamont instead.
But Bush said he still loves The Crossings and won’t let the experience keep him from going.
“At least this time, I know better and I’m not going to push my luck and sit underneath the gazebo,” he said.