GMF Lake Improvements Enter the Final Stage with Private Funding -Rick Langenberg

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The generosity of local residents and charitable foundations has paved the way for resurrecting one of the biggest draws for Green Mountain Falls: the Gazebo lake and park area.

However, the long-term stability of the Gazebo and overall lake improvements are still in question, with the town facing a probable bill of $300,000.

But the temporary fix for both the lake and Gazebo are moving ahead, with or without the support of the town government.

With a city government struggling to pay its bills, a number of local individuals and philanthropy advocates have stepped up to the plate to allow GMF to proceed full-speed ahead with the complete dredging of its lake, aimed at enhancing this central feature that draws many visitors to the area. Already, nearly 1,000 cubic yards of silt and muck have been removed, according to project estimates. As a result, the project has entered the final phase.

Dick Bratton, a former mayor and long-time civic leader, last week offered to pitch in nearly $5,000 to finish the project. This went along with his earlier donation of $10,000, and contributions by the Friends of Green Mountain Falls group for another $10,000. In addition, the Historic Green Mountain Falls Foundation, led by Chris Keesee, has invested $20,000 into the effort.

The project has commanded much interest, with the state Division of Parks and Wildlife even removing all fishing restrictions at the lake, just prior to the dredging work. This was the only body of water in the state where this privilege, was permitted.

Bratton contents that the end product is well worth the money, and made a pitch at last week’s board of trustees meeting for continuing the project and to permit Mark Lamb Excavating to remove the last 200 cubic yards of silt.

“Let’s finish the project,” demanded Bratton, who initially asked that the town government pick up the remaining tab, which he estimated at close to $5,000.

GMF trustee leaders replied that they would love to accommodate his request, but conceded that the town has to deal with escalating expenses, including paying a lot more for an audit than it anticipated. “We may not have the money to do it,” said Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Stevens

For an extended period, local leaders last week toiled over budget and financial documents, in an effort to see what type of funds they could invest into this project. Besides the lake, local leaders want to stabilize the Gazebo wall.

However, local leaders got a dose of bad news regarding the Gazebo project, learning that the town may be staring at a long-term bill of $300,000, if it really wants to do a full-scale enhancement of the lake and Gazebo area.

“Those are two separate projects,” noted Bratton, who urged the town leaders to complete the lake dredging effort initially. “The lake will look great.”

After the board reached a financial impasse, Bratton offered to pick up the tab for the remaining phase of the lake dredging project. The town leaders also looked at ways to do a temporary fix of the Gazebo area, a prime spot for weddings in the summer. The town did agree to pay for about $5,000 worth of temporary band-aid improvements at the Gazebo and with related infrastructure, including a drainage pipe outlet. The entire project should be completed within the next 10 days, according to Bratton.

Eventually, the town will have to lobby for key grants to revitalize probably its most well-known feature. “You can’t do this overnight,” admitted Stevens.