State Purchases Conservancy’s Cat Mt. Preserve
The Cat and Thomas Mountains Preserve, a 1,900-acre tract of land in Bolton acquired by the Lake George Land Conservancy in 2003, has been purchased by New York State and added to the Adirondack Forest Preserve, where it will remain ‘forever wild.’
The state’s acquisition of the two mountains, as well as its purchase of an adjacent 565-acre timberland once owned by Finch Pruyn, and which the Adirondack Nature Conservancy bought in 2007, was formally announced by Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens at a press conference held at the summit of Prospect Mountain on April 24.
“Cat and Thomas Mountains are part of the scenic backdrop of Lake George, and when we take steps to protect Lake George, it’s a very good day,” said Martens, who added that the trail systems through Cat and Thomas Mountains draw hikers from throughout New York State and the US.
“This investment to protect the ‘Queen of New York Lakes’ is part of a comprehensive effort by the State to maintain the Lake’s outstanding water quality, slow the spread of invasive species and promote outdoor recreation and tourism,” said Martens.
New York State paid the Lake George Land Conservancy $1.5 million for the Cat and Thomas Mountain Preserve; when the organization bought it in 2007, it paid $1.25 million.
According to Nancy Williams, the executive director of the Lake George Land Conservancy, the purchase price was based on independent appraisals, and does not reflect the costs incurred by the organization during the six years it owned the property.
“In the past, New York State took into account the sums spent to maintain properties, including the construction of trails. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case,” said Williams.
Acknowledging the Conservancy’s stewardship, Martens commended the organization for “being willing to take risks. When funds dried up, it begged and borrowed; it hung in there, which no doubt tested the mettle of the board and the staff. They did a great thing.”
According to Williams, the funds received from the transaction will help reduce the debt which the Conservancy incurred when it purchased the Last Great Shoreline in 2009 for $4 million.
The Conservancy will still owe $300,000 to its lenders, and fundraising efforts continue, Williams said.
The Cat and Thomas preserve includes approximately 65 percent of the watershed for Edgecomb Pond, Bolton’s reservoir and the source of its drinking water, said Williams.
According to Supervisor Ron Conover, the protection of the property helped maintain the quality of Bolton’s water supply.
But, he added, the state acquisition of the lands will bring an additional benefit to Bolton residents because New York State will pay property and school taxes on the full value of the newly acquired lands. When held by not-for-profit organizations, the lands were tax exempt.
Moreover, he said, the Cat and Thomas Mountain Preserve is “the centerpiece of the system of trails on Lake George’s western shore, which we are using to promote recreational tourism in our communities.”
The Lake George Land Conservancy expects to continue to maintain the trails even though the property is now part of the Forest Preserve, said Williams.
“The DEC operates a Trail Cooperative Agreement program that allows local partners to maintain trails,” said Williams. “We’ve applied to become a part of that program, not only for Cat and Thomas Mountain, but for the adjacent lands once owned by Finch.”
That parcel is expected to be open to the public in October 2013, the DEC stated.
Williams said she expected the properties would be classified as “Wild Forest,” a state land use category in which nearly all state-owned lands within the Lake George basin fall.
That designation, however, will not be official until the DEC has developed recreational plans and, in conjunction with the Adirondack Park Agency, determine the appropriate classifications of the lands. Once classifications are approved, the DEC will develop Unit Management Plans to protect the parcels’ natural resources and provide public access.
According to Martens, the cabin atop Thomas Mountain will in all likelihood be removed. A contemporary model log home, it was situated at the site by a developer and a realtor who hoped to market Thomas Mountain as an Adirondack ‘Great Camp’ after the property had been heavily logged.