A project to build a memorial and a center for nonviolence just outside Saratoga Springs has been put on indefinite hold by its backers because of bureaucracy and burnout.
Organizers had already obtained about $1 million in pledges toward the roughly $1.2 million cost of the project, which is called The Lighthouse Memorial.
Christopher Porter, one of the initial backers, said the center was originally intended to honor the victims of last December’s shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. The project was broadened to include all victims of violence.
Backers were negotiating to buy a 26-acre site at 11 Bloomfield Road in Greenfield, which according to tax records is owned by William and Frederick McNeary.
Porter, who lives in Florida, said earlier in August the group had just completed a nine-month permitting process with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and hoped to begin work on the project in September.
DEC spokesman David Winchell said the agency on June 20 issued a freshwater wetland permit to The Lighthouse Memorial Trust that allows the group to build a memorial structure on a 1,300-square-foot parking lot partially in a wetland area, along with a 4-foot-wide trail walkway.
Porter said organizers found it difficult, however, to get engineers during the busy summer construction season to draft documents for DEC to review. They also needed permits from the state Office of Historic Preservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Because a portion of the parcel includes wetlands, it was difficult to install water hookups and a toilet, according to Porter.
“You cannot have wastewater going into wetlands and we appreciate that,” he said.
But if people are going to be visiting the building, especially young children and the elderly, bathrooms are necessary, he said.
The group’s main backers had discussions, and Porter said they decided to cancel the project, at least for now.
Instead of just a memorial to the lives lost, Porter said, the group wanted to create a center to promote nonviolence in the entertainment industry and society at large.
“People in the entertainment business said, ‘Why don’t we make this a place from which we can encourage a reduction in violence in film, television and video games?’”
The group did not want to build in Newtown, according to Porter. “It just seemed to us to be approaching cruelty to build anything near there to be a constant reminder to the people who live there of this tragedy,” he said.
The Lighthouse Memorial backers selected Saratoga Springs because of its history as home to the national’s oldest horse racing track and variety of cultural attractions including Saratoga Performing Arts Center, according to Porter said.
The project has supporters from all over the country, Porter said, including people from the worlds of sports, entertainment and medicine, as well as business leaders, teachers and emergency personnel.
According to the organization’s still-active website at thelighthousememorial.org, the structure would be built in earth-toned Corten steel and have a 32-foot high ceiling. Two window walls would let in natural light and the building would feature a 164-foot-long vertical garden wall of flowers and ivies.
The facility could also host small music concerts, lectures, student/teacher conferences and art shows. Sculptures would be placed throughout the preserve.
Porter said the organizers decided they needed to take a break from the process and might consider alternative sites in other cities.
“It’s been a time-consuming, irritating process from day one that created hundreds and hundreds of files, thousands of calls and emails — all for nothing. All things considered, the ‘process’ was an endless annoyance,” he said in a follow-up email.