During a ceremony held July 30 to christen the stormwater-purifying wetlands at Charles Wood Park in Lake George, New York State Secretary of State Cesar Perales (front) praises area citizens for their creativity and determination in devising a creative solution for stormwater pollution tainting southern Lake George. Among those listening to Perales’ speech are (rear, left to right): Lake George Mayor Robert Blais, state Sen. Betty Little, and Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Geraghty of Warrensburg. Photo by Thom Randall
Twisting a T-bar wrench, New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales opened an underground valve that from now on will divert stormwater — that for decades was dumped into West Brook and ran untreated into Lake George — into engineered wetlands designed to purify contaminated water.
Several dozen area leaders and environmental group officials applauded this ceremonial act that commemorated the culmination of a seven-year project — one of the state’s largest of its kind — to prevent silt and other pollutants from tainting one of the nation’s cleanest lakes.
The wetlands christening ceremony was held Tuesday July 30 off Rte. 8 just south of West Brook.
The wetlands are the main feature of the 12-acre Charles Wood Park, now under development in Lake George. The park is not only intended to clean up stormwater in its expansive wetlands, but it will be hosting fitness trails, nature walkways and scenic overlooks. A 2.5-acre festival area is to include a large portable stage, a children’s adventure area, an interactive water fountain and a skateboard park as well as ecological parking.
Perales smiled as he gazed over the wetlands, through which sewer runoff from state Rte. 9 will now flow — being filtered and purified by natural biological processes.
“To protect Lake George — one of the state’s largest lakes and cleanest — is very important not only to the local economy and environment, but to Gov. Cuomo, and to the state of New York,” he said.
Perales praised the joint effort between the local municipalities, environmental groups and state government, noting that the engineered wetlands was a solution devised “through the creativity and determination of local citizens,” he said.
“This is a fabulous project, and it represents what government should be doing,” he continued.
Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson offered his thoughts after listening to Perales’ words. Dickinson had grown up near the park land in the 1950s, when it had been a natural wetlands before being filled in with thousands of tons of dirt and developed into Gaslight Village, a site for a tavern, and a parking lot. Dickinson said it was a milestone to see the plot restored to a natural state, so wetlands can again work as they did before the intrusion of man.
“This may be a ceremonial event, but the implications are tremendous,” he said.
Fund for Lake George Director Eric Siy also watched the ceremony.
”This is another big step towards lasting protection of the lake we love,” he said. “It’s also a clear example of collaboration at work.”
State Assemblyman Dan Stec added similar thoughts.
“This project was about bringing people together, finding common ground and working toward solutions,” he said.
State Sen. Betty Little, who Perales said was Gov. Cuomo’s “favorite senator,” praised the effort of curbing the stormwater pollution of southern Lake George, compounded by the construction of the I-87 Northway in the 1960s.
“The whole area economy is fueled by Lake George, and keeping the lake clean forever and ever is our goal,” she said. “This is something future generations are going to benefit from.”
Mayor Blais welcomed Perales and praised the role of the state Department of State for their $1.2 million investment in the park development project.
“The lake is our economic engine and it puts passion in our hearts,” he said. “This is another important, great day for Lake George — and the entire region.”
After a quick tour of the upper wetlands in the park, Perales was transported via trolley to Bolton Landing, where he reviewed Bolton’s relatively new $1.1 million town pier, with nearby rain gardens and restrooms. The Department of State contributed $495,000 toward developing these facilities, Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover said.
“The pier put the ‘Landing’ back in ‘Bolton Landing,’” he said, thanking Perales for his agency’s investment.