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Residents complain about crowds at Artpark concerts

Artpark's concerts may have become too successful for the park's own good, according to some of its neighbors.

A small number of Lewiston residents complained Monday that crowds of 30,000 or more have inundated the village on concert nights, causing overcrowding in the park, traffic jams, unbearable noise, parking problems, littering and congestion on streets and sidewalks that were built for a village of about 2,700 people.

They told members of the Village Board that problems were particularly acute before, during and after recent concerts by blues-rock legend ZZ Top and heavyweight rock favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd.

"It's gotten too big," agreed Mayor Terry C. Collesano. "About 10,000 to 15,000 people in the park would be desirable -- not 30,000."

Collesano said he saw an estimated 1,000 cars backed up en route to one of the concerts.

Trustee Bruce Sutherland said the ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts were "over the top."

The mayor promised that the Village Board would do its best to solve the problems before next summer's concert season.

Board members and nearly everyone in the audience of about 25 people in Village Hall agreed that Police Chief Christopher Salada and his department had done as much as possible to control the crowds and keep traffic moving.

Al Soluri, a village police commissioner, said earlier that about 140 arrests have been made so far this summer for drunken driving, people having open containers of alcoholic beverages, possession of marijuana and other offenses.

Salada said Monday that his department had issued so many parking tickets that the supply was running out. The board authorized the department to buy 1,000 more parking tickets for a total of $460. The fine for most parking violations in Lewiston is $20.

Collesano said village officials meet after every week's concerts to discuss complaints.

"There are only three weeks to go in this concert season, and we're going to continue to meet over the winter to alleviate the problems," he said. "I guarantee you, a lot of the problems will be remedied."

The mayor said the meetings would include representatives of Artpark & Co. and the state, as well as local officials and other stakeholders.

The state's subsidy for the state-owned park has largely dried up, and Artpark promoters now rely heavily on income from popular performing groups. Some residents complained that the focus of the park has changed from emphasis on art to more of an entertainment venue.