To put into action the new Bolton Recreation Hub Strategy, it will take everyone in the community, including or perhaps especially those in their twenties and thirties who support the Lake George Land Conservancy’s NextGeneration Committee.
That was the message of Paul Cummings and Ethan Gaddy, the Chazen Companies consultants who drafted the strategic plan and who were the featured speakers at NextGeneration Committee’s Summer Solstice Soirée, held June 20 at the Bolton Landing Brewing Company.
“How do we take it to the next step? It will be a collaborative effort of our elected officials, the chamber of commerce, non-profit organizations and local businesses,
with everyone aligned and leveraging our outdoor recreational opportunities,” said Cummings who, like Gaddy, grew up in Bolton Landing. “All of us may need to make a little bit more of a commitment.”
The plan was prepared by Chazen Companies for the Lake George Land Conservancy, which was awarded a $40,000 grant from the Land Trust Alliance and New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation in 2018 to advance a town-wide goal of making Bolton an outdoor recreation hub.
According to Sarah Hoffman, the Lake George Land Conservancy’s communications director, “the idea of Bolton as a ‘recreational hub’ started with Town Supervisor Ron Conover. After learning that Bolton rivals Lake Placid for numbers visiting for outdoor recreation, he proposed that Bolton take advantage of its unique assets. In response, the Lake George Land Conservancy, the Town and the Bolton Landing Chamber of Commerce came together and asked The Chazen Companies to develop a plan.”
The presentation of the plan at the Bolton Landing Brewing Company on June 20 was the most detailed yet.
The plan would, if executed, offer hikers access to an integrated trail system that ascends to the Pinnacle, Cat and Thomas Mountains and lead to preserves bordering primitive camping sites in the Tongue Mountain Range and state-owned lands extending north and west of Bolton – with a trail head within walking distance of the town’s business core.
A loccalized strategy for economic development
The plan was designed to benefit both the local economy and the region’s conservation goals, said Cummings.
“Outdoor recreation is one of the largest segments of our economy; it appeals to an educated group of people with disposable income and directly supports important jobs, making it possible for people to live, work and raise families in our community,” said Cummings.
The Bolton Landing Brewing Company is an example of a business that will benefit from promoting the town as a recreation hub, said Cummings.
“If I could put this whole thesis in a bottle, it’s this: the Bolton Landing Brewing Company has crafted a wonderful beer that’s named after the Pinnacle, that amazing collaboration between the town and the Lake George Land Conservancy and which is inspiring a new generation to become invested in land conservation. We want to replicate this kind of symbiotic relationship between nature, conservation and economic development, making certain that it’s done well so as to be sustainable,” said Cummings.
Bolton’s opportunities for expanding its recreational footprint are not limited to hiking trails, said Cummings.
Opportunities for Nordic skiing, mountain biking and rock climbing are also explored in the report.
“The Town of Bolton has a unique relationship to the lake, and with its existing resources – the preserves, the trails, the state-owned lands – it’s the type of place that could, if it chose to, emulate communities such as Woodstock, Vermont and Bar Harbor, Maine and become an example of sustainable ecotourism,” said Cummings.
According to Cummings, “a culture of outdoor recreation” benefits land conservation, the local economy and the residents’ quality of life.
Cummings continued, “Bolton already has outstanding recreational assets, but we’re not organizing and promoting them strategically. This plan would do that.”
In most places, economic development strategies are limited to attracting the next chip fabrication plant.
“Let’s recognize the economic value of outdoor recreation to our community, and treat it just as seriously as some communities treat high tech or manufacturing,” Cummings said.
Creating an Integrated Trail Loop
A few strategic land acquisitions, some of which are currently being negotiated with interested owners, will close the loop of trails from the hamlet to the Lake George Wild Forest, said Ethan Gaddy.
Gaddy said the new parcels linking currently unrelated trail systems, as well as new trail heads, including one to Cat Mountain near the Schroon River, would also relieve pressure upon over-crowded destinations.
“What many people enjoy are not necessarily the long hikes we associate with the High Peaks but, rather, shorter climbs of no more than a mile or two that end with great views,” said Gaddy.
All new trails should be “purpose-built,” professionally designed and built for vistors’ needs and suited to the uses intended for them, said Gaddy.
“A purpose-built trail requires more thought and effort than blazing an old logging road and calling it a trail,” said Gaddy. “We spent a lot of time talking to different user groups – hikers, boaters, hunters, rock climbers, mountain bikers – to assess demand.”
Properly-constructed trails are also more environmentally sensitive, preventing erosion and damage to vegetation, said Gaddy.
Some trail heads and preserves would be designated “ambassador sites,” which, according to Gaddy, means they would host kiosks or signage that both directed visitors to other sites and offered instruction about the ecological functions of the particular preserve.
“Amy’s Park, in North Bolton, for instance, is the headwaters of a major tributary of Lake George and a wetland complex which people can learn more about while recreating. They can leave with a better understanding of the connection between recreation, land conservation and water quality,” said Gaddy.
The plan is not just a template for enhanced recreational opportunities; it promotes conservation values, said Gaddy.
How the Plan Promotes Conservation Values
“One reason why Lake George is as clean as it is, is because so much upland has been preserved and protected from development,” said Cummings. “Mother nature is probably the greatest storm water management control system there is.”
Land reserved for recreation not only benefits the economy, “it’s one of the most critical tools for protecting water quality,” said Cummings.
By promoting Lake George Land Conservancy-protected preserves to visitors seeking recreational opportunities, the plan also promotes the work of the Conservancy and helps educate people about land protection’s role in preserving water quality, he added.
“We know that you can conserve land and protect water quality while, at the same time, providing public access. These things are not mutually exclusive,” said Cummings.
Implementing the Hub Strategy’s Recommendations
On May 1, the Lake George Land Conservancy announced that it been awarded a second$40,000 to help implement a few of recommendations contained in the Bolton plan.
According to Sarah Hoffman, the new funds will be used to help pay for the creation and installation of new signage, parking lots, kiosks and other improvements to the Conservancy’s preserves in North Bolton.
Jamie Brown, the Conservancy’s executive director, said, “We want to expand the capacity of Amy’s Park and the Godwin Preserve. Both are great examples of protecting habitat, blocks of forest, and important wetlands and streams. Improving the infrastructure of these preserves will accommodate more visitors and help educate them about their ecological importance.”
Brown said as more funds become available, investments will be made in improvements to the Pinnacle, the town-owned preserve protected through a partnership with the Lake George Land Conservancy.
“We will also be meeting with Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss the Unit Management Plan for the Lake George Wild Forest. When that is complete, we can work on connections and improvements to the state-owned Forest Preserve lands,” said Brown.
Brown continued, “We are making sure that the plan is implemented and doesn’t sit on a shelf collecting dust.”
Re-Branding Bolton as a Recreation Hub
To leverage Bolton’s recreational assets, “a coordinated, savvy marketing plan is necessary,” said Cummings, one that might include a newly-designed logo, an advertising campign targeted toward outdoors audiences, a new website, special events and the wide-spread dissemination of Bolton’s message through Instagram and other digital media.
“Just as we’ve told the story of the lake, we can tell the story of our uplands as well,” said Cummings.
The costs of creating and launching a new marketing campaign could be met in any number of ways, he said.
“Costs could be offset by grants. Perhaps one of the not-for-profits and the munipality could play a direct role. Local businesses could also play a role, aligning their individual marketing strategies with the broader, town-wide strategy,” said Cummings.
It Takes the Community
Cummings and Gaddy concluded their presentation by encouraging the NextGeneration committee’s members and supporters to support this initiative.
“It could take a form as simple as using our trails and supporting conservation-based efforts through fundraising stewardship and trail-building. If you’re asked to serve on a committee, say yes. If you’re a business owner, offer the use of your skills. Foster partnerships,” said Cummings.
Lake George, Cummings said “is the force that grounds us all; it’s the place we all return to. It’s that special. So our perspective as we approached this project was not just professional; it was emotional. That, too, was the view of the Lake George Land Conservancy. We’re all equally dedicated. Let’s harness that.”