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Fund for Lake George, Lake George Association to merge

LAKE GEORGE — The lake’s two most prominent protection groups announced Thursday they will merge, citing growing threats to the lake’s water quality.

Boards from the Lake George Association and The Fund for Lake George unanimously endorsed the merger on Tuesday, citing a growing number of threats to the lake, including harmful algal blooms and invasive species.

“We all felt that the compounding threats to Lake George, its water quality, demanded nothing other than a unified strategy that would come out of one organization with one voice,” said Jeff Killeen, board president of The Fund for Lake George, during a virtual press conference.

The two organizations were one and the same until 1980, when the Fund for Lake George broke away from the LGA to become its own entity. The LGA was founded in 1885 and is the oldest lake protection organization in the country.

The new entity will keep the Lake George Association name.

Members of the association must still approve the merger before it can be completed, but Peter Menzies, president of the organization, said he doesn’t anticipate any objections.

“We see no issues with it based on the overwhelming support we’ve received so far,” he said.

The merger is expected to be ratified in April and will become official sometime around May 1, Menzies said.

“The chemistry between this team is very real and I’m so encouraged by our working relationships we forged already,” he said. “We’re ready to hit the ground running.”

Finances had nothing to do with the decision, Killeen said.

The Fund had $5.8 million in total assets as of 2018 and the LGA had $5.2 million the same year, according to tax records.

Support for both organizations has remained steady, even throughout the pandemic, when the usual fundraising activities could not take place.

“We have found out that our supporters are steadfast,” said Walt Lender, executive director of the LGA.

The goal in unifying is to create something that “literally doesn’t exist anywhere” to tackle the growing number of threats to Lake George and influence public policy in a way that benefits fresh water bodies throughout the state, Killeen said.

“We feel that it’s the right way to manage Lake George. … we can be a leader and lead by example on public policy relevant to fresh water,” he said.

The organizations operate a number of water protection programs to mitigate the flow of nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen into the lake through stormwater runoff and wastewater discharges.

Education programs to enhance public awareness about Lake George are a staple for both organizations.

The Fund operates The Jefferson Project, a collaboration between IBM Technologies and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute launched in 2013 to study the effects human activity has on the lake.

The discovery of the first harmful algal bloom in the lake last fall and the emergence of several invasive species in the Lake George basin, including hemlock woolly adelgid, played a role in the merger.

“With those threats we have to act decisively, and we can only do that if we do it together,” Killeen said.

The new organization will be led by a board of directors comprising members from both the LGA and The Fund, with Killeen acting as chairman and Menzies vice chairman.

Eric Siy, executive director of The Fund, will become president of the new organization, and Lender will serve as senior vice president.

“There’s nothing like this anywhere in the world, but, you know, there’s no place like Lake George anywhere in the world,” Siy said. “This is history in the making, and it’s future in the making and we’re doing it together.”

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