LAKEGEORGE - Area philanthropist J. Buckley Bryan Jr. of Bolton Landing has pledged a donation of $45,000 to the West Brook Conservation Initiative in Lake George Village, considered a landmark environmental effort.
This gift brings Bryan's investment in the park development project to $107,000, making him the second largest individual donor in the project.
Now under construction on the south parcel of the former Gaslight Village property, the initiative calls for developing a park with wetlands intended to reduce pollutants flowing into Lake George.
Encompassing a 12.7-acre property straddling West Brook, the park is envisioned to include a festival area with public parking, as well as walking and bicycling trails, wildlife-filled marshes, and scenic overlooks.
The initiative is considered the largest environmental project in the lake's history.
Buckley said this week he was pleased that the wetlands, complete with settling ponds and marshlands, would effectively treat the single biggest source of the pollution to the lake's southern basin. He is a recent past president of the Lake George Association, one of the several environmental groups involved in planning and overseeing the park and wetlands development.
"After all our hard work, it was gratifying to see physical work begin on the project," said Bryan.
The demolition of Charley's Saloon on the south side of West Brook Road is now complete, and now rough grading is underway.
The inlet and outlet culverts have been installed, according to Walt Lender, Association executive director. Describing the intended water purification process, he said stormwater from state Route 9 will enter the first settling pond via the inlet culvert, then travel through shallow marsh wetlands where pollutants in the runoff will be naturally treated through uptake by the plants. Then, the water will be diverted into either a deep water marsh or a gravel wetland, where dense root mats, crushed stones and a microbe rich environment will purify the water before it returns to West Brook via an outlet culvert.
Three environmental groups, the Lake George Association, the Fund for Lake George, and the Lake George Land Conservancy have worked together to develop the project under the terms of a conservation easement they jointly hold with the village of Lake George and Warren County. As of this week, the groups still need to raise an additional $1.56 million to secure ownership of the easement.
In addition, The Conservancy is seeking to raise $2.3 million toward the purchase of the 1,436-acre Berry Pond tract, to protect West Brook's headwaters. The final payment on principal for Berry Pond is due Jan. 17, 2012.
In praising Bryan for his donation, Peter Bauer, executive director of The Fund for Lake George said the West Brook project will cleanse millions of gallons of stormwater every year and provide a much needed environmental boost to Lake George.
"The project is the most ambitious environmental restoration project ever attempted around Lake George," he said noting that the lake is the region's most vital environmental and economic asset. "The lake has been experiencing declining water quality for more than three decades with the lowest water quality consistently found in the south end."