LAKE GEORGE — Two recent grants have put the Charles R. Wood Park project within striking distance of its fundraising goal as local leaders continue to hash out how shares of the park will be divided among Warren County and the town and village of Lake George.
“We’re going on our sixth year,” Village Mayor Robert Blais said of planning and developing the environmental park at the former Gaslight Village site. “It’s been a long haul, but it will be worth it when it’s done. It’s going to be beautiful.”
A proposal to divide ownership of the park evenly among the county, town and village was shot down this summer when village officials said they didn’t want to give up any of their shares.
“We’re still working on that,” Lake George Town Supervisor Dennis Dickinson said. “We’re in the final throes of that whole thing. We’ve spent a year negotiating.”
The three entities were partners in the project, but the town sold its shares to the village in 2010. When Dickinson took over as supervisor this year, town leaders began an effort to buy back in to the project. A deal for the county to sell half its shares in the park to the town was delayed in September when Dickinson asked the resolution for the $673,611 sale be tabled.
Dickinson was hoping the park ownership issue could be resolved by the end of the year, but is now hoping for January or February, he said.
“We’re getting really close — I’d like to get some resolution to this soon,” Dickinson said. “We’re anxious to get in there and be a real contributing partner in this thing, to have voting power.”
Despite the delay in determining how park ownership will be divided, park construction is expected to begin in the spring.
The village recently received $750,000 from Capital Region Economic Development Council for development of the park at the West Brook Road site. The village also recently got a $150,000 grant from the Charles R. Wood Foundation, which requires an equal match with funds the village raises, Blais said.
Without that match, there’s enough funding for all of the elements planned for the park, with the exception of a water feature. When the village can come up with the matching $150,000, every feature planned for the park will be completely funded.
The estimated cost of the water construction, which will include a pond and a large fountain, is $300,000. Blais plans to reach out to individuals and businesses in the area for the additional $150,000 needed for the park’s water feature to see if they’d like their name on that component of the park in exchange for the donation that would fund its construction, he said.
But fundraising for the park can be challenging at this point, because many people have already contributed so much, Blais said.
“A lot of people around the lake have already given something,” the mayor said. “And we don’t have real big companies (in the village.) But hopefully someone will step up.”
A $500,000 grant for the park project came through in October from the Wright Family Foundation, which is earmarked specifically for a children’s interactive play area planned for the park.
A committee has been raising money for a skate park planned for the venue, and the town and village have set aside thousands of dollars in occupancy tax funds for that element.
Other elements include benches and signs throughout the park, and the festival space, which is the first priority when construction starts in 2013.
The Big Apple Circus is returning to the village in July for its second year of performances.
“Hopefully, the festival space can be done first so the circus can go there in July,” he said.
The final proposed park design will be submitted to the state Department of Transportation in the spring, and project bids will then likely go out in April, allowing for construction to begin in May, Blais said.
After the run of circus performances in July, construction at the park would begin again and run through the fall. The goal is for construction to be complete in 2014, with the park open that summer.
The village has raised $12.5 million thus far for the park, which have come mostly from grants and donations, and doesn’t include any taxpayer money, Blais said.
The village had requested $933,000 from the regional council, and received $750,000. But with other funds leftover from a previous grant, the village can add to the state grant to reach the amount it requested, Blais said.