ALBANY - The popular motorcycle rally Americade will stay in Lake George for 2011, according to event organizers, who signed an agreement March 29 with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
"We are pleased to announce that our convention has reviewed and signed the 2011 agreement with NYS DEC today, agreeing to pay NYS DEC $50,000 for the rental of the Beach Road Parking lot and associated areas," said Americade Vice President Christian Dutcher in a prepared release. "We are delighted that the 2011 negotiations have concluded, and since DEC stated that this framework can serve as a model for future years, we're optimistic that arrangements for 2012 and onward will be much simpler."
On March 25, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced that the state had formed a partnership with Warren County that would allow Americade to again use the Lake George Beach, Battlefield Park and Prospect Mountain Day Use Areas for the June 2011 event.
The agreement will lead to the issuance of a "temporary revocable permit" allowing Americade to use the state-owned lands in the village and town of Lake George.
Americade founder Bill Dutcher had asked the state to lower the permit price from the proposed amount of $82,000 to $50,000, or else he may move the event to Massachusetts. And that's exactly what the state did in its new agreement.
DEC sets price
The permit price is now $50,000. It cannot be free because the DEC has to recoup costs in labor before, during and after the event and parking fees at the day-use areas, said DEC spokesperson Michael Bopp in a March 25 phone interview.
"Our goal was always to recover our costs," Bopp said. "It should not be on the taxpayers' purse."
The DEC has claimed thousands of dollars of expenses associated with Americade, assertions that others, including Americade organizers, have contended.
"We're trying to responsibly manage the state lands," Bopp said in a phone interview March 28, defending the DEC's permit fee for Americade.
The bulk of the vendors are usually located in Lake George's Million Dollar Beach parking lot, a state facility that is operated by the DEC. Americade also hosts a barbecue and party atop Prospect Mountain.
The DEC charges parking fees to the public for its day-use areas throughout the state. In the Lake George region, the fees are: $6 per car at areas where there are no swimming facilities; $8 per car at swimming areas where life guards are on duty; $4 per motorcycle; $8 per car to park at Lake George Beach or $6 per car after 5 p.m.; and $8 per car and $40 per bus at Prospect Mountain.
This year's deal would be similar to the one in 2010 in which Americade pays entrance fees on behalf of the participants under the terms of the DEC permit.
Help from Warren County
The DEC has traditionally provided Environmental Conservation Officers to help with traffic control at Americade. In announcing the agreement, Bopp said the state will still help this year, but not as much as in the past because the Warren County Sheriff's Office will now provide most of the law enforcement help. And that enticed the DEC to lower its permit fee for this year.
"Americade is of vital economic importance to Warren County and the surrounding communities and we have all benefitted from the responsiveness of DEC and its cooperation to secure Americade's continued presence in Lake George for years to come," Dan Stec, Queensbury town supervisor and chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said in the March 25 DEC press release.
The March 25 announcement from the DEC was a little premature. When contacted in the afternoon on March 25, Americade's Bill Dutcher said his organization and the DEC only had a "tacit understanding" as to the permit's details. In an e-mail sent later in the day, Americade Vice President Christian Dutcher said his "advisors" would review the papers and issue "a formal release of acceptance." That happened on March 29.
"We'd like to thank our political representatives involved with this matter, Sen. Little, Assemblywoman Sayward, Warren County Chairman Stec, Town of Lake George Supervisor McCoy and Lake George Mayor Blais, as well as DEC Commissioner Martens for all their efforts," Christian Dutcher said in the March 25 e-mail. "We're pleased that we were able to come together as a group to find a resolution."
However, all the credit should not be given to the DEC and Warren County alone, he asserted.
"Concessions were made by all parties in order to reach resolution on the matter," Christian Dutcher said March 29. "Americade will provide parking lot control and staffing, as well as reimburse Warren County Sheriff's Department for pedestrian and traffic control at the nearby crosswalk formerly staffed by DEC."
Praise for the agreement
In the meantime, state officials lauded the agreement in the DEC's prepared statement.
"This agreement demonstrates our commitment to making state facilities an important part of the tourism economy in the Lake George region," Martens said. "We worked very hard to create a partnership between our Department and Americade and believe this framework can serve as a model in future years. This resolution would not have been possible without the efforts of Senator Little, Assemblywoman Sayward and Supervisor Stec and we appreciate their cooperation and support."
Sen. Betty Little sees Americade as a "tremendous economic driver" that attracts thousands of people to her district each year, helping the tourist industry prior to the busy summer season.
"Many area businesses depend on this boost of activity, so resolving this cost issue was very important to me," Little said. "Working with the DEC, an agreement has been reached that is fair and appropriate and a good example of what can be achieved when we partner."
Americade will be held from June 7 to 11 in 2011 and is billed as "the world's largest multi-brand motorcycle touring rally." It attracts more than 50,000 visitors each year.