Park commission gains new director who wants to mend fences; act

Section: Main,  Page: A3

Date: Saturday, March 31, 2012

LAKE GEORGE -- When the new head of the Lake George Park Commission starts next month, he will walk into some hot-button issues, like keeping boats from bringing in more invasive species and kick-starting stalled rules aimed at keeping pollution out of streams feeding the lake.

Dave Wick will be only the second executive director of the park commission since its creation in 1987, replacing Michael White, who is retiring from the $100,000-a-year job. He will start on April 23.

He served as director of the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District for 19 years, before taking the new job.

"One of the items I will be working on will be to bring some of the ties between the commission and municipalities," Wick said Friday. "I will be going to a lot of the local town board meetings, planning board meetings, to see what the commission has been doing right, and what could be improved upon."

Also, Wick said he will explore ways to revive controversial stream protection rules the commission proposed to the state in July 2009. The plan has been in legal limbo within the governor's office of two administrations.

Wick's office helped map the 150 stream along the 32-mile lake for the commission, which proposed creating areas around streams where development and tree-cutting would be restricted.

The rules could set up 100-foot protection zones around streams, although zones would be limited to 35 feet on existing building lots. Cutting of trees or vegetation would be banned in most cases. The zones are expected to filter a mix of fertilizers, pesticides, salts and sediments from built-up areas that wash into streams and, ultimately, the lake, fueling algae blooms and clouding water.

The proposal drew opposition from some landowners and developers, who claimed it was excessive, while environmental groups that development around streams is fueling pollution that is fouling the legendary clear water of the lake.

"We need to have an open discussion about why the (proposal) stalled and I have some thoughts as to why it has not gone as well as the commission thought it should have," said Wick, a resident of Lake George

He also joins the commission as it wrestles on what rules to impose, if any, on boaters to reduce the risk of invasive species getting into the lake from boats arriving from other bodies of water.

An idea for a rule requiring boaters to use mandated boat washing stations prior to launching has drawn concerns from boating advocates. Each year, about 18,000 recreational boat owners register with the commission to use the lake. About 2,000 boats in the group are owned by people who live elsewhere and trailer their boats to launch sites.

Warren County is preparing a pilot program for a single boat-washing station, at a location this summer still to be determined, Wick said.

"We hope that Dave helps set a new tone on the commission, which is not known for the most aggressive leadership," said Peter Bauer, executive director of the Fund for Lake George, a lake advocacy group.

The group has been involved with a project attempting to eradicate the invasive Asian clam from the lake, believed to have been brought there by outside boats. Bauer's group also supports the lake stream protection rules, and has openly questioned why the governor's office has neither accepted nor rejected them.

Park Commission Chairman Bruce Young, a resident of Huletts Landing in Washington County, could not be reached for comment. - 518-454-5094 - @Bnearing10