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."
She added that there are other lands around the lake which the group would like to protect but acquisitions are at a standstill until they pay for the two recent purchases.
The Conservancy's purchase of the Last Great Shoreline project, located in the Town of Putnam, was a crucial step in the protection of the Lake George watershed, she said. A total of 351 acres and 2,357 feet of shoreline were acquired as a preserve, and 70 acres and 1,613 feet remain in private ownership that is now protected by a deed restriction.
The Conservancy has developed more than one mile of hiking trails through diverse ecological systems, including along parts of the Sucker Brook wetlands, to the view of forested hills and mountains of Vermont, and to a view of Lake George.
The land contains 35 acres of wetlands - including a rare white cedar swamp, she said. These Sucker Brook wetlands provide a natural filtration system, contributing to the pristine water quality of Lake George. In addition, the legendary Jumping Rock, situated on the northern shore, is part of the Conservancy preserve.
A wide variety of birds have been spotted in the region, Williams said. Peregrine falcons are nesting along side the steep cliffs of Record Hill, and Ospreys were seen flying across Warwick Road daily. A copy of the sightings can be viewed at: www.lglc.org.
Since its inception in 1988, the Lake George Land Conservancy has preserved more than 12,500 acres in the Lake George watershed and 9.2 miles of shoreline.