The West Brook environmental project and festival grounds in Lake George village formally got a new name this week as an agreement was made with the Charles Wood Foundation to name the development ‘Charles R. Wood Park’ in exchange for a $750,000 donation. Meanwhile, county, village and town officials debated future ownership of the park after county supervisors, in a straw vote taken May 18, indicated they wanted to turn it over to the local municipalities. The concept concerns Lake George Mayor Robert Blais, who said such an ownership change might disrupt grant funding.
For decades, Gaslight Village was a primary attraction in Lake George. It was fashioned by Charles R. Wood, a local man known internationally as the godfather of theme parks.
Over the past dozen years, plans have progressed for the property— along with about 10 adjacent acres — to be turned into an environmental park to include festival grounds and wetlands that filter out stormwater pollution. Straddling West Brook, the park is envisioned to include walking and bicycling trails, wildlife-filled marshes, and scenic overlooks.The 2.5-acre festival area, located on the former Gaslight Village plot, is to host outdoor events and provide public parking.
As of Monday May 21, the plot officially acquired the title of the “Charles R. Wood Park,” after the Lake George Village board formally approved an agreement with the Charles R. Wood Foundation to name the venue after the legendary man in exchange for a donation of $750,000 — to be paid over several years.
Lake George Village Mayor Robert Blais said that the foundation officials, members of the Wood family, were willing to allow features in the park’s festival grounds, like the playground area, to bear separate designations if other individuals or enterprises contributed toward them. He also said the Foundation may be open to further donations toward the park’s development.
In related business at the May 21 village meeting, the board approved a land swap with the Lake George Steamboat Co. and and Fort William Henry Corp. to allow development of a formal entranceway to the park’s festival grounds. The agreement had taken several years to negotiate.
Park ownership spurs debate
Also, Blais reported that ownership of the park was the subject of much debate among its owners: Warren County, the town of Lake George and the Village. He said that county supervisors — faced with a new proposal for one-third ownership for each municipality — had taken a straw vote, and indicated support for abandoning their share of the project and turning it over entirely to the town and village.
Blais warned that such a move could cause problems with state grants, as the county had served as lead agency in the development project.
“It would be extremely difficult to move the project forward if the county got out,” he said.
Blais added that with a 50-50 town/village ownership, the cost to the town to buy out the county’s share was calculated at $1.2 million, and the cost to the village — which now owns 38 percent —would be about $250,000.
He said county supervisors were convening June 5 to discuss park ownership.
“Stay tuned,” he said. “The meeting will be interesting.”