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Lake George AM Sun

A view of Lake George.

About 60 lake associations throughout the Adirondack Park joined to reinvigorate the Adirondack Lakes Alliance, a group hoping that strength in numbers will provide a louder voice for its advocacy.

This group that spans the park began in 2008 as an informal way for lake associations to share best practices. In the fall, two lake association leaders from Warren County — Ed Griesmer, president of the Loon Lake Park District Association; and Jane Smith, president of East Shore Schroon Lake Association/Schroon Lake and River — reorganized it. Griesmer is serving as executive director and Smith as associate director of the Adirondack Lakes Alliance, which is taking a regional approach to protecting Adirondack waters.

Smith said the alliance will “bring a voice that had been missing from the table in discussions about threats to our waterbodies and, therefore, our economies in the park.”

“We’re an evolving organization. We’re working on a regional concept,” Griesmer said.

The group has formed five different regions with regional directors.

In December, the association held its first regional meeting in Piseco for Region D, which includes Fulton and Hamilton counties.

Smith said the regional meeting was attended by numerous stakeholders including lake associations, municipal officials, government agencies, nonprofit groups and educational groups.

The association plans to hold meetings in each of the five regions throughout the spring and early summer. An annual meeting and conference at Paul Smith’s College is also being planned for the summer.

“We feel that by meeting in each of the regions we will likely engage more folks who would not travel longer distances within the park,” Smith said.

While the group doesn’t have dues right now, a few lake associations, towns and the Lake Champlain Lake George Regional Planning Board have donated seed money, she said, which is being spent on setting up a website.

“Going forward our focus is working with the coalition of partners throughout the Adirondack Park who are working on a collaborative plan for boat decontamination stations within the park,” she said.

That plan would place 20 boat-washing stations strategically around the Adirondacks at an estimated cost of $500,000.

Fund for Lake George Executive Director Eric Siy and Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, also executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, have been advocating for a wide-spanning partnership — similar to the Save Lake George Partnership. The Save Lake George group fronted half the money needed for the Lake George Park Commission’s two-year pilot boat-washing program.

“What we do know is if we don’t continue to fight the whole invasive movement, that has a very serious economic impact on towns and a tremendous impact on property values. It’s very key for the economy of New York and the Adirondack Park, tourism being the main industry. If we lose our lakes, it’s a major, major impact on the local economy. We’re fortunate because there are many lakes within the park that are invasive-free. Part of the strategy here is to keep invasives out of the lakes,” Griesmer said.

By bonding together, lake associations can make recommendations to state, county and local municipalities as well as nonprofits and educational institutions around the park.

“Everybody is pulling together, which is really great,” Smith said.

She said government officials and several organizations, such as the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program, Adirondack Watershed Institute of Paul Smith’s College, soil and water conservation districts, the Adirondack Park Association and the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the Lake Champlain Lake George Regional Planning Board and the Lake George Park Commission, have helped in an advisory capacity.

Lake George has a long history of water quality protection efforts. The Lake George Association, which dates back to 1885, is the oldest such group in the nation.

Smith said the lake associations often are “first responders” in identifying and combatting threats to water quality. The LGA’s lake steward program provided a model for other lakes, and Smith said the LGA helped her organization set up lake stewards to inspect boats.

“They had a program for many years and helped us set it up. It all kind of started and went from there,” Smith said.

The Schroon Lake group has overseen the Lake Steward Program at the DEC-Horicon Boat Launch since about 2007. It started as a volunteer program, with lake stewards trained by the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College. Then in 2010, they partnered with the town of Horicon, which now pays for lake stewards.

“It started as a volunteer program, but the town has really stepped up to the plate and allowed us to have four stewards that rotate seven days a week, so our coverage has been greatly increased,” Smith said.

The town also funds stewards at Brant Lake. In 2015, $32,000 is budgeted for stewards at both lakes in the town, with an additional $8,000 for possible boat decontamination. The town doesn’t currently have a boat-washing station.

LGA Director Walt Lender said stopping the spread of invasives from one lake to another helps all lakes.

“Each lake has to be considered independently as well. Each his its own unique situation,” he said.

While lake associations have shared ideas for years, he said this effort being led by the park’s smaller lakes will formalize the cooperation.

“This is creating a network so they can share ideas and share some of the projects they’re working on. It helps get everyone on the same page. It’s a great opportunity for communication between the groups,” Lender said.

Anyone who wants to join the effort can email Smith at janesmith.ala@gmail.com or Griesmer at edgriesmer.ala@gmail.com.

Follow Amanda May Metzger @AmandaWhistle and read her blog at www.poststar.com.

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