Watershed, Public Tour Property Donation

MAYVILLE – Unseasonably warm temperatures and an abundance of wet and snowy woodland were no deterrent for those who turned out for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s New Preserve Celebration Tour.

On Saturday, the wetlands recently procured by the CWC proved to be aptly named for those who participated in the walkthrough.

The new CWC property, which constitutes 30 acres, is composed primarily of forested swamp land. The property runs adjacent to Big Inlet, a creek which eventually empties into Chautauqua Lake’s Hartfield Bay. According to John Jablonski, the CWC executive director, Big Inlet is the fourth largest of the tributaries entering the lake.

The site conserves part of the Elm Flats wetland feeding and serving as the floodplain for Big Inlet. Approximately 940 feet of Big Inlet’s main course meanders along the eastern edge of the property. It also contains successional hardwood forest, hemlock-northern hardwoods forest, shrub swamp, red maple hardwood swamp, and shallow emergent marsh habitats.

This land is now part of the Chautauqua Watersheds Tributary Preserve System. It is downstream from CWC’s 83-acre Elm Flats Wetland Preserve north of Lawson Road in Mayville.

“This is the largest wetland in the entire Chautauqua Lake Watershed,” said Jablonski. “I think there are about 400 acres of wetlands between (either side of Lawson) road. As an organization, we’re trying to conserve the stream quarters that feed the lake by making sure there are buffers filtering the water getting to all the streams. Topsoil nutrients, when they get to the lake, can fuel the algae growth and heavy duty plant growth that has people up in arms every summer. We would ideally like to conserve much of the wetlands.”

The land, which had been used as a farm pasture until the 1950s, was donated to the CWC by longtime members, Ted and Deborah First. Jablonski explained that the property will remain largely untouched by the CWC but there are plans to make it accessible to the public.

“(The purpose of the CWC) is to conserve lands of the highest ecological, scenic and hydrological value across the county. Our motto would be to, ‘Create healthy landscapes through healthy waters,’ because the water runs from the landscape. And if you can have the land in a condition to provide clean water, then you can help control the plant and algae growth within the lake.”

According to Jablonski, the CWC hopes to construct the preserve in similar fashion to that of the Jamestown Audubon Society. It wants to create a small parking area off to the side of Lawson Road, a looping trail through the property, some interpretive signage to instruct visitors about the property and its various types of flora and fauna and one or two wildlife observation decks or blinds alongside the creek.

“(The preserve) will be open for public use from sunrise to sunset, and we’re pleased to have it because this is part of the watershed,” he said.

The CWC has conserved approximately 800 acres of land at locations throughout the county in addition to the Chautauqua Lake Watershed. They include parts of the Lake Erie Watershed, parts of Cassadaga Creek and the land from the middle to lower sections of Cassadaga Lake.