To the Editor:
The Lake George Association would like to comment on today’s public hearing, as there were a few items discussed that could benefit from clarification . We applaud Committee Chair Bill Kenny for running an excellent forum and giving the public a chance to speak out about this important project for Lake George:
1. The environmental project is NOT dependent on the fate of the two buildings, and is moving forward independently.
With the exception of efficient timing, the West Brook Conservation Initiative environmental park project is not dependent on the fate of the two buildings on the festival space part of the property . While many who spoke today discussed the merits of the environmental protection project versus the existence of the buildings, the two issues should not be juxtaposed. The debate over the best use for the property for stormwater management was settled in 2008 when there was an unprecedented partnership of public and private sector interests; the municipal and environmental entities came together to jointly purchase the property. While the municipalities debate over buildings, the environmental project forges ahead. The environmental groups — the Lake George Association, the Fund for Lake George, the Lake George Land Conservancy, and other members of the Lake George Watershed Coalition — have continued to acquire grant funding and private donations to move the project design forward. The environmental park part of the project is located on almost 10 acres, outside of the designated 2.5 – acre festival space. The environmental park is on two tracts: 5 acres north of West Brook Road, and 4.8 acres south of West Brook Road. The three environmental groups jointly purchased a conservation easement on this property for $2.1 million. Toward construction of the project to date (not the cost of the easement itself), the project has received $1.2 million from the Department of State and a commitment of up to $600,000 from the Department of Transportation. On behalf of the village of Lake George, the Lake George Association applied for, and received, a Federal Transportation Enhancement Program award of $2.5 million. These funds put us substantially on our way toward making the environmental parts of the project a reality.
2. The design for the environmental project is professional, state-of-the-art, and comprehensive.
The Chazen Companies was hired to design the stormwater management systems in the park using the latest technologies, and the plans are nearly 100 % complete at this point. Natural stormwater wetlands systems and settling ponds of appropriate capacity will capture sediment and remove pollutants and nutrients before they enter the lake. Demolition of the buildings on our portion of the project is being funded through a $1.2 million grant from the NYS Dept of State. Major grading and excavation is currently scheduled to take place before winter as part of work funded through the NYS Dept. of Transportation.
3. The environmental park maintenance costs will be minimal.
The environmental park is designed as a natural, restored wetland. Costs for its upkeep will be minimal. Boardwalks, trails, bridges, gazebos, benches and interpretive signs are also in the plans, and will require very minimal maintenance once constructed through existing donations and grants. These elements are durable and carry no operating expenses. The plant selection of hearty, perennial native species is also intended to have little or no maintenance burden. Mowing, replanting, and upkeep is designed to be low-maintenance as well. This is not an area that is going to require weekly mowing, fertilizing, or watering, once established. It is being designed as open fields of native grasslands, forested areas of native woodland trees, and lush native wetlands transversed by the occasional boardwalk for ease of public access . One challenge we are trying to anticipate is how to keep invasive species from gaining any foothold. We are keeping this as maintenance free and low cost as possible. This is not intended to add to the taxpayer burden.
4. Grants often require local matching funds.
The funds required to match a $1.2 million Department of State grant, which can be used for demolition, site preparation, and construction of the stormwater wetland complex, are already on the table. In the case of this state grant, the local match is adequately covered through the investment made by three municipalities: $350k from the village of Lake George; $350k from the town of Lake George; and $1. 3 million from Warren County. Additional local matching funds include the $2.1 million investment made by the environmental community for the purchase of real property and a conservation easement.
C. Walter Lender _
Executive Director _
Lake George Association