LAKE GEORGE — Lake George Battlefield Park could have its own visitors interpretive center in combination with a new Lake George Park Commission office as soon as November, officials have said.
The Lake George Battlefield Park (Fort George) Alliance, a nonprofit friends organization of the state historical site, plans to operate the visitors center out of the ground floor of a new building, which would replace an existing structure at 75 Fort George Road. Alliance President Lyn Karig Hohmann said she hopes it will officially open to the public by Memorial Day next year.
The 35-acre park was a site of battles during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. While the alliance has held interpretive walks and reenactments, it has struggled for years to have a concrete home that would detail the park’s historical significance. David Wick, executive director of the park commission, said records show since 1910 officials have wanted a museum on the property honoring the battlefield.
Karig Hohmann said the alliance has preserved key artifacts from archaeological digs on the battlefield, which she hopes could be displayed in the new interpretive center. The alliance also has multiple diaries it would like to share with the public through some kind of interactive display where entries might be read aloud and played through an exhibit.
The displays will cost money, however, and Karig Hohmann said the alliance plans to start fundraising locally. She’s estimating about $100,000 will be needed. The nonprofit organization is also planning a meeting in September so the community can offer ideas.
“We want the community to work with us and to see the vision,” she said.
The new building itself will likely be in place by November this year, Wick said. The park commission is currently housed in a 140-year-old farmhouse riddled with asbestos and facing structural issues with its roof and siding, among other problems. The state Department of Environmental Conservation owns the building, but the commission operates out of it through a memorandum of understanding from 1997.
Wick said a $700,000 Environmental Protection Fund line item is devoted to a new, modular building, which will be placed about 20 feet away from the current structure. About 10 park commission staff will relocate to the new building; then the current one will be leveled and a new parking lot put in.
Wick said requests for proposals for the modular building will likely go out in mid- to late-May, and he hopes to break ground by Sept. 1. Staff will continue working and operating out of the existing building until the new one is up.
The park commission unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday, declaring the project would have no significant environmental impact under the State Environmental Quality Review Act for Lake George. While the park commission is the lead agency, the Adirondack Park Agency will also be voting on aspects of the project for the site’s unit management plan in the upcoming months. That plan is out for public comment until May 3.
Park commissioners said they did not foresee any major changes to the proposal for the new building, but added there would be opportunities to revise.
“There’s always a chance to change it, but nothing gets off the ground without taking the first step,” said Chairman Bruce Young.