Groups Join Efforts?For Healthy Lakes

The Cassadaga Lakes Association and Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy have enjoyed a cooperative conservation relationship for healthy Cassadaga Lakes for more than 10 years. The Cassadaga Lakes Association acknowledges that one of the keys to maintaining clean, swimmable waters is to conserve the wetlands that protectively cloak much of the lake. The wetlands capture and store waters on their way to the lake, and the wetland plants provide important filtration functions to absorb nutrients from incoming waters.

The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy accepted a donation of 5.8 acres of wetlands in memory of Mary Straight on the north side of the Dale Drive tributary to the lower lake in 2003. In 2011, CWC purchased the 12-acre wetland peninsula, which separates the lower and middle lakes, to establish the Fern Island Wetland Preserve, with donations from Cassadaga Lakes residents. Wetland shrubs and herbaceous plants living on Fern Island can absorb nutrients directly from the lake water, acting as an in-lake water treatment system. These two preserves are managed cooperatively by the Conservancy and Cassadaga Lakes Association.

Last Saturday (Sept. 14), the CLA and CWC held their third annual “Paddles Across the Lakes!” a celebration of non-motorized craft and wetland preservation on Cassadaga Lakes. We gathered at the NYSDEC boat launch on Dale Drive in Cassadaga, with many CLA members coming by sea, and others coming from Mayville, Fredonia, Orchard Park, and other places in western New York to launch their kayaks and canoes for a day of paddling and fun.

Evergreen Outfitters of Ashville rented kayaks to those who did not have their own paddling craft. After brief introductions by CLA President Dennis Collins and me, more than 40 paddlers set out to enjoy the beauty of the jewel of Cassadaga Lakes under a bright blue sky and over clear waters. The colorful flotilla paddled south through the middle lake, around the CWC’s Fern Island Wetland Preserve and then around the lower lake. Several turtles were visibly sunning themselves on logs along the shore of the preserve. Some paddlers explored narrow fingers of open waters extending up into the wetlands. After about an hour of paddling, many in the group landed their craft on the shore of the Rodney and Lisa Waite residence, where the Waite family and CLA provided a tasty lunch offering hot mulled cider, coffee, sandwiches and other treats. Several of the participants paddled on to explore the upper lake after lunch.

The leaders of the CLA and CWC noted that the lake maintenance and watershed conservation activities of their respective organizations are funded primarily by membership donations and encouraged those present to join each group. Anyone wanting to support these two organizations can find membership forms at their respective websites: cassadagalakesassociation.com/ and www.chautauquawatershed.org.

The mission of the CWC is to preserve and enhance the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. Over the past 20 years, it has conserved 718 acres across Chautauqua County and 2 miles of Chautauqua Lake and Outlet shoreline habitats. For more information, call 664-2166, visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or visit www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.