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West Brook park to be named for Great Escape founder, $750k grant lined up

West Brook environmental park, seen here in a sketch plan, is now to be named after the late Charles R. Wood, local legend, philanthropist and theme park pioneer.  County officials announced that his Foundation has pledged $750,000 towards the completion of the park, at the south end of Lake George.

West Brook environmental park, seen here in a sketch plan, is now to be named after the late Charles R. Wood, local legend, philanthropist and theme park pioneer. County officials announced that his Foundation has pledged $750,000 towards the completion of the park, at the south end of Lake George. Photo by Thom Randall.

— West Brook environmental park, envisioned to be a new natural gateway to the Adirondacks, is now to be named after the man who shaped tourism in the region — as well as pioneering the theme park industry internationally.

Tuesday Jan. 17, County leaders endorsed a proposal to name the 12-acre plot after local legend Charles R. Wood, who developed the Great Escape theme park as well as Gaslight Village, where the environmental park is now being developed with a primary purpose of purifying stormwater before it flows into Lake George.

Wood is considered by many to be the godfather of all theme parks, having created Storytown USA in 1954, one year before Walt Disney opened the original Disneyland. He built Gaslight Village five years later near the south end of Lake George.

Naming the park after Wood is in conjunction with an offer from the Charles R. Wood Foundation to contribute $750,000 over three years, and perhaps ultimately more, to the park’s development.

According to the latest plans, the park’s features are to include a 2.5-acre festival grounds with a portable stage, meandering waterways, a skateboard course, children’s play and adventure areas, nature walkways and fitness trails, and scenic overlooks.

Lake George Village Mayor Blais said that the Wood Foundation’s commitment meant the park project would now be substantially funded at $12.5 million — a sum composed of state grants, local government contributions and donations from environmental groups, individuals and foundations. A consortium of local governments and environmental groups purchased the Gaslight Village land from the Foundation in 2004 for $4.1 million.

The proposed elevated walkway and tower, however, remains to be funded, Blais added.

Blais said the Wood Foundation officials were proposing that only a modest sign declare the name of the park - “The Charles R. Wood Park,” or “Wood Park” — and not a memorial or statue.

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