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Lakeside environmental park closer to reality

LAKE GEORGE A municipal environmental park which would naturally filter out pollutants from storm water and help clean up Lake Georges southern basin took a substantial step toward realization this week. The Warren County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution Jan. 18 to borrow $1.3 million to help purchase the former Gaslight Village property about 12 acres for the project. This is the most important project of its kind ever to be undertaken in the Lake George basin, Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais said Tuesday, hours before the village board was convening to endorse the project. The town and village of Lake George and Warren County, together with three environmental groups, are expected to purchase the land from the Charles R. Wood Foundation in February for $4.1 million. The town and village are contributing $350,000 apiece. The environmental park is envisioned to include a festival area with public parking, as well as walking and bicycling trails, wetlands with exotic plants, and scenic overlooks with interpretive signs. The parks major function would be to reduce pollutants and sediment now flowing directly down West Brook, which intersects the plot, into Lake George. For many decades, thousands of tons of sediment have flowed unabated into Lake George, harming both navigation and recreation. Plans for the park, however, include a complex series of engineered wetlands and ponds which would capture the sediment, sludge and debris. The wetlands would host particular plant varieties that absorb chemical pollutants. The three municipalities have been negotiating for years with the Lake George Association, the Fund for Lake George, and the Lake George Land Conservancy to hammer out an agreement for the parks use and management. This past week, they reached a preliminary agreement, which included reserving 2.5 acres of land for a festival staging area and an accompanying municipal parking lot. The site may host events such as Americade, the NYS Fire Chiefs Convention, and the Lake George Car Show. The agreement also calls for tearing down Charlies Saloon. Some officials had previously sought to rehabilitate the abandoned building, but environmentalists contended it would obstruct the wetlands project. Supervisors had been concerned that the environmental groups might drag out completion of the park project, an effort that might include the Army Corps of Engineers. But an agreement was reached last week for the bulk of the work to be completed in 30 months, and finished in a maximum of 15 years. For years, environmentalists feared the property, the largest available plot of land in the village, would be bought up for condominiums, compounding the lake pollution problem. Also, area municipal officials once sought to build a convention center there.. But during the last several years, municipal officials and environmentalists started to work towards a common goal. Fund for Lake George Executive Director Peter Bauer said the environmental park would solve the stormwater pollution problem associated with West Brook. This has been the single biggest source of pollution to Lake George, he said, adding that a lot of permitting and engineering hurdles remain ahead. Weve come a long way now, but we still have a long way to go. Walter Lender, Executive Director of the Lake George Association, said the project would provide substantial environmental benefits for generations to come. This is the highest priority project in the Lake George region, he said. It will help protect the lake for future generations.

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