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$200,000 grant awarded to preserve Lake George wild lands

LAKE GEORGE - The Lake George Land Conservancy recently received a grant of $200,000 from the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation to help support the environmental group's most recent land conservation projects.

The Lake George Land Conservancy took on substantial debt to finance the acquisition of the Berry Pond Preserve in 2008 and the Last Great Shoreline Protection Project in 2009. The Froehlich Foundation's grant will help to meet these financial obligations, a Conservancy official said.

"It's impossible to overstate the importance of the Froehlich Foundation's annual support for land protection," Land Conservancy Executive Director Nancy Williams said. "Their gifts pay our holding expenses for these lands as we continue to raise funds to pay off the loans. This year has been even more critical than most because the state has pushed many, if not all of its land acquisition projects to the unknown future."

On February 27, the Lake George Land Conservancy ended nearly two decades of negotiations when it acquired the Gabriel land in the Town of Putnam for $4 million. Known as the Last Great Shoreline project, this acquisition caused a considerable debt load, Williams said. With another $300,000 of project expenses, the acquisition represented the Conservancy's most expensive purchase ever, and the largest mortgage it ever undertook.

About one year earlier, the Conservancy purchased the 1,436-acre Berry Pond tract in southern Lake George, marking the organization's largest single acreage acquisition. The $2.654 million purchase, made possible through a loan from the Open Space Conservancy, the Froehlich Foundation and other private donors, was considered a vital step in protecting the water quality of West Brook, which flows into Lake George. The Conservancy must raise around $175,000 annually to meet its mortgage requirements, Wilson said.

"We are thrilled that we were able to protect these parcels," said Williams, noting that her group has already opened public trails on both plots. "Our current debt is over $6 million - we hope that those who use the lake appreciate the protected lands that protect the beauty of Lake George and send a check to the Conservancy."

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