The West Brook Conservation Initiative is a living example of what can be accomplished in partnership. The Fund For Lake George has collaborated with the Lake George Land Conservancy and the Lake George Association along with local municipal entities to confront significant nutrient and pollutant levels flowing into Lake George. The partners have leveraged funds from private donors to conserve important sections of the West Brook watershed, preventing further development from contributing to the problem and restoring wetlands to their natural state, so that they may filter waters as they flow into the Lake.
A Historic Problem
Before development on the southern shores of Lake George, the wetlands near the mouth of West Brook collected and filtered the sediments that water picked up as it flowed down the surrounding hillsides. British settlers saw strategic value in the wetlands and sited Fort William Henry and Fort George within them. As settlements developed, the wetlands were filled and restricted, reducing their filtering capacity. With less area for water to move through, storm surges flowed directly into the Lake, carrying the nutrients and pollutants that the wetlands had previously held behind.
Modern development continued to clear forests in the watershed and introduced new pollutants to the landscape through building, road treatments, and lawn care further compounding the problem. A narrow, channelized West Brook, could no longer perform its vital role as nature's filter, leading to rising levels of pollution entering the Lake.
The Conservation Initiative
Beginning in 2004, conservation partners confronted the longstanding problem with a “summit-to-shore” approach meant to restore the natural role of West Brook. Starting at the surrounding summits, undeveloped land was purchased and conserved to prevent further development and its associated increase in sediment runoff. The purchase of 1,400 acres of land at Berry Pond ensured the protection of high-elevation forest to retain water flowing down Prospect Mountian. Conserved land will also provide natural recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.
On the shore, the initiative purchased a twelve-acre parcel surronding West Brook to prevent further lakeshore development. The former Gaslight Village parcel is being transformed into a new environmental park and festival space that will be used for a variety of public events. At the same time, remediation and filtering ponds have been created to handle stormwater runoff from the Route 9 corridor. Restoration of the site is projected to remove more than half of the nutrients and 90% of all sediments carried by stormwater into the Lake, dramatically reducing the largest source of pollutants in the south basin.