West Brook Conservation Initiative: From Worst Threat to State-of-the-Art Water Treatment

One of the greatest threats to a clean Lake George has always been stormwater runoff – and one of the worst places in Lake George for stormwater runoff had been West Brook at the head of the Lake.

Now, however, there is beautiful, walkable space on either side of West Brook and a natural system that cleans stormwater and protects Lake George water quality in the process.

On one side of West Brook is the West Brook Conservation Initiative Environmental Park, which performs the hard work of cleaning stormwater before it arrives in Lake George, and on the other side is the Festival Space at Charles R. Wood Park, a popular venue for music and community festivals and events.

West Brook trails

The walking trails at the West Brook Conservation Initiative property in Lake George.

Previously, stormwater and snow melt from developed areas and roadways around the head of the Lake flowed down the steep sides of the West Brook watershed and across the paved areas, picking up speed as well as oils, salt, and sediment carrying phosphorous (and other chemicals), and deposited those contaminants into Lake George.

In fact, studies show that about fifty percent of all contaminants entering the Southern Basin of Lake George came through West Brook.

The West Brook Conservation Initiative’s aim was to stop those contaminants and protect Lake George now and in the future. It developed from a partnership of the Lake George Association, Fund for Lake George and Lake George Land Conservancy as well as the Village of Lake George and Warren County.

The local governments bought the properties (on the north side and south side of West Brook) and the three non-profit organizations purchased a conservation easement on the parcels. On the south parcel, where the old Charley’s Saloon was located, the non-profits developed and built a natural waterway to treat and filter stormwater to remove contaminants.

The water wends its way through natural treatment stages: into a pond where sediments can settle out, through vegetated swales where plants can draw nutrients out of the stormwater, and through a gravel wetland and deep water wetland.

When the stormwater processes through the property and flows back into West Brook, it no longer carries the pollutants, sediment and other contaminants, instead offering Lake George clean, fresh water – Just like nature intended!

In the park-like setting, walking paths have been built on the southern parcel so visitors and residents can take a relaxing stroll through the property and enjoy the natural setting even as the property works very hard to protect Lake George water.

To date millions of dollars of grant money have been contributed to this entire site, including funding from the Department of Transportation, Department of State, Office of Parks and Historic Preservation and private grant foundations – Charles R. Wood Foundation, Wright Foundation and the Helen V. Froehlich Foundation – as well as local support.

The State Historic Preservation Office, Adirondack Park Agency, the Department of Environmental Conservation and Army Corps of Engineers have all had input on the project as well.