Lake George Mirror
According to Jeff Killeen, the chairman of The Fund for Lake George’s Board of Trustees, “the environment and the economy are two sides of the same coin.”
To foster the health of both, The Fund has created a new program, “The Business of Lake Protection.”
Its purpose, says Eric Siy, The Fund’s executive director, is to explore what “they – the business owners - can do to help protect Lake George at this critical time. Getting them engaged is the single most important next step in securing lasting lake protection.”
Not only will the Lake George benefit from the co-operation and leadership of businesses, the businesses will benefit through the power to brand themselves as lake protectors, said Siy.
“Not to mention the returns on a long-term investment in the lake,” Siy added. “Business owners know better than any other group how important the lake is to the economy. As goes water quality, so goes the economic vitality of the region.”
An inaugural gathering, held at the Holiday Inn last May, drew approximately twenty business operators and representatives of professional organizations, such as the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce, the New York State Hospitality Association and the Eastern New York Marine Trades Association.
According to Siy, the conversation affirmed that a strong economy depended upon a protected lake.
“The beauty is that you can have both; in fact, you need both,” said Siy.
Welcoming the group, Jeff Killeen said, “It’s going to take the vision and collaboration of everyone who loves this lake— those who live here, those who visit, and those whose businesses and jobs are dependent on clear, clean water—to truly protect it for future generations.”
Lake George’s tourism industry generates $2 billion a year for the local economy, Killeen told the group.
“There was a clear level of enthusiasm around the table; to a person, everyone understood that the lake is the life blood of the local economy. It wasn’t necessary to sell this partnership,” said Eric Siy.
Six months after that initial meeting, The Fund has announced that it has formed “a Council of Business Advisors.”
This new group includes: resort owner Vinnie Crocitto; Dan Davies, president, Davies~Davies & Associates; Patricia Dow, vice president, Lake George Steamboat Company; Kathy Flacke Muncil, CEO, Fort William Henry Corp; Tom Guay, the Sagamore’s general manager; and Fred Vogel, president of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce.
According to Siy, “The Council of Business Advisors corresponds to The Fund’s Council of Science Advisers, honoring our belief that environment and economy are two sides of the same coin and to guarantee that the business sector is fully represented as we work to protect the lake.”
“The Fund is all about partnerships,” said Jeff Killeen.
In fact, The Fund’s partnership with business is already functioning, said Eric Siy.
According to Siy, at least half of the 30,000 metric tons of salt that are deposited within the watershed every winter, is applied to private property.
Starting this year, The Fund for Lake George will subsidize assessments of current practices at local resorts and help develop plans that will enable managers to keep their properties’ roads and parking lots clear of snow and ice without the excessive use of salt.
The Holiday Inn, Fort William Henry and the Sagamore are among the resorts taking part in the program, said Siy.
There are financial incentives for resorts to use less salt, said Lake George Waterkeeper Chris Navitsky.
“The money that’s saved by purchasing less salt can be used for other things, such as upgrading equipment. There’s also less wear on equipment, infrastructure and lobbies and even rooms when less salt is used,” Navitsky said.
Navitsky said he expects property owners and managers will seek certification for their “sustainable winter management” practices, just as local governments have.
In addition to reducing the use of salt, businesses will be encouraged to adopt the Waterkeeper’s Low Impact Development practices to curb urban runoff, said Siy.
“We believe in carrots, not regulatory sticks,” said Siy.
The new Council of Business Advisors does not need to meet regularly to be effective, said Siy.
He said business owners would be presented with a range of opportunities for collaboration. “One size will not fit all; we’ll tailor a partnership to suit each business’ needs,” he said.
Kathy Flacke Muncil, the Fort William Henry CEO, said she was looking forward to working with The Fund and the new group.
“The Fund does a phenomenal job of engaging all stakeholders around the lake in a collaborative way, and in taking a balanced approach to environmental protection and economic development. I’m looking forward to being part of the effort. Our business has been here for 60 years and we want it to be here for 160 more, but the only way it will be is if we keep the lake pristine,” she said.