The state has purchased an additional 2,460 acres on the west side of Lake George, including the popular hiking destinations of Cat and Thomas mountains.
The Cat and Thomas Mountains parcel, a 1,900-acre property in Bolton, was purchased from the Lake George Land Conservancy for $1.5 million, state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens announced Wednesday.
The state also purchased an adjoining 565 acres called the East River Tract from The Nature Conservancy for $381,000.
“This is the backdrop to the lake. This is what makes it enormously scenic,” Martens said at a news conference at the top of Prospect Mountain at the lake’s south end, about 10 miles south of the new acquisitions.
The announcement came just a day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state’s purchase of 9,300 Adirondack acres from The Nature Conservancy, as state officials mark “Earth Week,” which began with Earth Day on Monday.
Money for the purchases is coming from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.
“This investment of $1.8 million 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,” Martens said.
The Cat and Thomas Mountains property has been open to hikers since the land conservancy bought it in 2004, and the two small mountains are the most popular hiking destination on the lake’s western side, officials said. They give views of Lake George, Gore Mountain and Vermont’s Green Mountains.
A loop trail beginning at the parking lot off Valley Woods Road provides for what officials described as a leisurely but moderately difficult hike. There is also an easier hike from the parking lot to the beaver ponds below Cat Mountain. The Lake George Land Conservancy has applied to DEC to continue to maintain the trails through DEC’s trail cooperative agreement program.
“This is our most visited property on this side of the lake,” said Nancy Williams, executive director of the land conservancy.
There is a small cabin on Thomas Mountain. Martens said its fate hasn’t yet been determined. The property also includes Edgecomb Pond and Finkle Brook, which account for about 65 percent of Bolton Landing’s public water supply.
The East River Road parcel, part of the lands The Nature Conservancy acquired from Finch Pruyn in 2007, is expected to be open to the public in October, officials said.
The Cat and Thomas properties are the centerpiece of an intermunicipal plan for hiking and biking trails in Lake George’s northern basin, said Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover. “The trail system throughout Cat and Thomas Mountains attracts tourism dollars to the community and LGLC has always actively participated to provide more incentives for people to enjoy Bolton Landing,” he said.
The deal furthers the land conservancy’s mission to protect the lake, Williams said.
“We have always felt a special responsibility to protect these mountains. They provide not only an important destination for tourists but many residents regularly enjoy the hike along our trails,” she said.
The Lake George Land Conservancy, a non-profit land trust, has helped to preserve more than 13,500 acres around the Lake George watershed and 9.2 miles of lake shoreline since 1988.