Chautauqua Lake Facilitator Hired To Assist With Lake Management Group, Provide Authority

A Chautauqua Lake facilitator will enable groups to utilize resources and have authority when it comes to improving the lake.

According to Lyle Hajdu, chairman of the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission, Peter J. Smith and Company was hired to help with just that. The company, which is a full-service urban design, urban and regional planning and economic development firm, will become the facilitator of a lake management group.

“There’s maybe a misperception that we are looking to have one entity displace all others, and that’s not at all the case,” Hajdu said. “I think what we’re looking for is for us to reorganize. Right now, (the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission is) organized under the county laws as an advisory committee.”

Currently, there are many groups and organizations which aim to improve Chautauqua Lake. The Chautauqua Lake Management Commission was originally formed to help legislators determine the problems with the lake, and provide plans to fix these issues. However, since the commission’s inception in 2005, none of the ideas have been put into place.

“The reason that we need Peter J. Smith to come along is, the CLMC was originally put together as a volunteer commission, or an advisory commission, but we have no authority and no resources,” Hajdu said. “We don’t have a checking account. We don’t have boots and shovels. We can make recommendations, but those recommendations then have to be implemented by other functional groups.”

Now that the Watershed Management Plan is in place, Hajdu said, the next phase is implementing the plan. However, with no resources and authority, there is little the commission is able to accomplish.

“What we’re seeing now is the natural evolution of the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission,” Hajdu said. “With a collaborative partnership, it has completed its core mission, and now we’re trying to go into that next step, which is to come up with a management structure, or a governance that will allow us to implement the recommendations.”

According to Legislator Fred Croscut, R-Sherman, who, along with Legislator Keith Ahlstrom, D-Dunkirk, helped form the commission, $10,000 was requested from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation in order to fund a facilitator. However $5,000 was given to get a facilitator on board with the plan. He anticipates the other half of the money will be following.

The main reason the facilitator was hired, according to Croscut, is to maintain complete transparency when it comes to Chautauqua Lake.

“After meeting with the CLMC and the (Inter-Municipal Committee), it was clear that we needed an outside facilitator to help us come up with a single management group for Chautauqua Lake,” Croscut said. “We want to make sure we as a county do not have any preconceived notions about what we want. We want to be transparent, we want to be open.”

Having as many groups interested in the lake as Chautauqua County does is a strength, according to Hajdu.

“What we expect will come out of these meetings is that we are going to come up with a new way for us to organize, whether it’s a new entity or a new organization that will provide us with both resources and authority to implement those recommendations,” Hajdu said.

Since the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission is an advisory commission, it does not have resources, or even a checking account. Additionally, it does not even currently have the ability to apply for funding to implement plans.

“The financial resources will always be a challenge for us,” Hajdu said. “We know that we have to think outside of the usual box. There are federal funds available for lake and watershed projects, and we have to be in a position where we can compete for them. There are significant state funds, many of which we have been fortunate enough to get through the Department of State.”

Now, with a facilitator, various lake groups will have the opportunity to organize under an unbiased source, according to Hajdu. Peter J. Smith will allow the groups to cohesively work toward improving Chautauqua Lake.

“We’ve done a hell of a job giving advice, but now we need boots and shovels to implement it,” Hajdu said. “That is that next step.”