Silver Bay YMCA Conference & Family Retreat Center: Inspiring Guests in Environmental Stewardship, Leading by Example with Lake Protection

The following profile was prepared by The FUND for Lake George prior to its 2021 merger with the LGA.

August 2020

For more than a century, the not-for-profit Silver Bay YMCA Conference & Family Retreat Center has welcomed people of all ages to its landmark destination on northern Lake George for recreation, relaxation and education. Once onsite, Silver Bay’s leaders say, it is their hope visitors not only enjoy the property, but are inspired by its beauty to become better stewards of the environment.

With a full mile of pristine shorefront in the hamlet of Silver Bay, combined with 600 acres of Adirondack forest, it’s hard not to be inspired.

“We are a missional organization, and a big part of our mission is environmental stewardship,” says Executive Director Steve Tamm. “From our perspective, we have not inherited Silver Bay from our ancestors, we are protecting it for our grandchildren.”

Evidence of that stewardship can be found across the property — with a special emphasis on protecting the clean, clear waters of the Lake.

In 2019, with a major facility modernization and expansion recently completed, Silver Bay demonstrated exceptional leadership in Lake protection by voluntarily investing $3.5 million in a highly advanced Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) wastewater treatment plant to replace its outdated, 70-year-old conventional septic system.

Silver Bay leading by example

“We are hoping that our example will encourage other commercial and residential property owners around the lake to modernize their waste water systems.”


Outdated septic systems and municipal treatment plants have been identified by The FUND for Lake George and the Lake George Waterkeeper (a program of The FUND) as one of the greatest threats to long-term water quality and the potential for harmful algal blooms. The FUND has worked closely with the Village of Lake George on the replacement of its Depression-era treatment plant, and with the Town of Bolton in adding an innovative woodchip bioreactor to its treatment process, to reduce the amounts of harmful nutrients entering the Lake. Earlier this year, The FUND launched that equips homeowners and businesses with the tools they need to keep their systems operating safely and protect the Lake.

Silver Bay’s MBR system cleans the property’s wastewater — as much as 50,000 gallons on a typical summer day — far more thoroughly than the old system and, according to the project engineer, to a level that well exceeds New York State requirements. Steve Tamm compares the visual clarity of the system's effluent to a bottle of drinking water. He says that Silver Bay could have stayed in compliance with state regulations with a $1.5 million investment, but spent more than twice that because, “We didn’t want to just meet today’s requirements, but exceed them for today and going forward. We wanted to do the right thing, whether it was easy or not.”

In a written overview of its Environmental Stewardship Commitment, Silver Bay states, “We are hoping that our example will encourage other commercial and residential property owners around the lake to modernize their waste water systems.”

Prior to the opening of the treatment plant, Silver Bay had spent several years tackling yet another significant threat to the long-term health of Lake George — contaminated stormwater runoff. In 2018, they constructed a wetland and a series of rain gardens on the property to collect and naturally filter the runoff coming from its own paved surfaces as well as the two public roads that intersect its campus, Rt. 9 and Silver Bay Road. In 2016, the organization was awarded the Lake George Waterkeeper’s Low Impact Development™ (LID) certification for the relocation and environmentally sound reconstruction of its main parking lot farther away from the shoreline.

Silver Bay’s 700-acre property encompasses an enchanting blend of historic buildings and modern-day business amenities, visited by between 8,000 and 10,000 guests per year for conferences, meetings, special events, family reunions and vacations.

Like all large hospitality facilities on the Lake, Steve says, Silver Bay recognizes that it is at once an important part of the regional economy and a contributor to the human stressors impacting the Lake. He and the Board of Directors take that responsibility seriously.

“Our goal is to have a positive impact on the local environment, the local economy, and the local community,” Steve says. “We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the beauty and health of the Lake for generations to come.”

Invoking Silver Bay’s mission to ensure their guests embrace the environmental health of the Lake, he says, “If we don’t do our part in protecting it, we wouldn’t be walking our talk, would we?”

Silver Bay’s historic accomplishments leave no doubt of the answer.