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Supervisors sideline Mohican outdoor drama

LAKE GEORGE Warren County officials have shelved long-standing plans to develop an amphitheater to host a Last of the Mohicans outdoor drama attraction. The amphitheater and drama project was envisioned to draw thousands to the region, yielding $10 million in tourism revenue annually. Monday, citing budget concerns, supervisors voted for the county planning department to stop devoting time to the amphitheater project, conceived for development in the Town of Lake George. They also decided not to conduct a feasiblitiy study, bankrolled by $9,200 in state grant funds, to determine how best to accomplish the project. Their decisions are subject to vote April 18 by the entire county Board of Supervisors. The founder of the drama project, actor and director Michael Dufault, said Tuesday he was unhappy with the decision, but not discouraged. This is disappointing and unfortunate, but I can understand where the county officials are coming from money is tight now. He said hed now be looking towards corporate sponsors ,private investors and donors to fund the proposed amphitheater and outdoor drama production. For about five years, county leaders and tourism consultants had envisioned the outdoor drama to be a major tourism attraction that would enrich visitors experience in the county and boost county sales tax revenue. But the deteriorating economy and obstacles in siting the amphitheater have now prompted the county to suspend the plans, county budget chairman Kevin Geraghty said. Its our concern the timing isnt right to expend any money on the project because the prevailing economic conditions have caused a county budget crisis, he said. Plans originally had been drafted to site the amphitheater in the Town of Lake Luzerne. Opposition from neighboring property owners prompted supervisors to shift the amphitheater site to the Town of Lake George on municipally-owned recreational property near the Villages water reservoir beside Prospect Mountain. Recently Lake George Town Supervisor publicly aired his frustration at getting Village and Town boards to hammer out an agreement for siting the amphitheater. He said that for months, hed been seeking a 99-year lease from the village on about 10 acres of their recreational land, but negotiations had stalled this year. Tourism and drama consultants had pegged the cost of an amphitheater to be about $1.5 million and attract an annual audience of about 40,000. An outdoor drama production in North Carolina called The Lost Colony now attracts about that many tourists, and one called Tecumseh is similarly successful in southwest Ohio. County Planning Dept. Director Patricia Tatich said the decision to shelve the project could have unforeseen consequences. Considering prevailing interest in the Mohican heritage, another municipality or private foundation elsewhere in central New York may just develop an outdoor drama depicting James Fenimore Coopers tale of the French and Indian War, and beat Warren County to the punch, she said. Louisa Sherman, Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, said the supervisors who have supported the project were not present for the Monday vote, and she was going to lobby the county officials to change their minds and spur them to move the project forward. She said outdoor dramas were part of a new, growing trend in tourism. Sherman serves on the drama projects board of directors. The Mohican outdoor drama has tremendous potential because its heritage -oriented and a clean-and-green type of cultural attraction, she said. Tourist destinations have to continually reinvent themselves and add new attractions to stay competitive and bring in visitors.

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