CHAUTAUQUA - Visitors to Chautauqua County in western New York can view the blooming results of recent efforts to develop healthy landscapes such as rain gardens and buffer strips with the long-term objective of improving the health of Chautauqua Lake and the surrounding watershed. Two local organizations are putting conservation, science, planning and a lot of discussion into action.
Since 2007 when it began an educational program called Healthy Landscapes; Healthy Water, the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy has worked with numerous landowners, gardeners, landscapers, landscape designers, grounds-keepers and others to understand how establishing healthy and beautiful landscapes can improve natural watershed storage and filtration systems. Recently, CWC conservationists Jane Conroe and Deb Naybor have teamed up to offer a number of educational and awareness building opportunities. Funded through a two-year grant program, the two are helping landowners, both on and off the lake, plan gardens and buffer strips using plants native to the Chautauqua region, test and analyze soil, and make connections with other professionals such as Chautauqua County Master Gardeners. Over the past year, they have helped 36 homeowners plan rain gardens and buffer strips. For information on planting a rain garden or buffer strip, contact the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy at 664-2166 or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org.
Chautauqua Institution located along the northern basin of Chautauqua Lake is working to reducing excessive nutrients, sedimentation and pollutants from flowing into the lake. Since 2010, Chautauqua has been working with Foit-Albert Associates, an architecture and engineering firm based in Buffalo, to identify and prioritize improvements in 13 separate and distinct areas on the Institution's grounds that drain into Chautauqua Lake. A Drainage Management Plan calls for action to: reduce nutrient input to the lake; retain water where it falls; eliminate or decrease runoff discharge into Chautauqua Lake; remove nutrients from water running into the lake; employ best management practices; and serve as a demonstration community.
The Bell Tower at Chautauqua Institution can be seen beyond the daylilies in a buffer zone along Glidden Avenue.
This spring, Chautauqua Institution received two grants totaling $696,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency and Clean Water Act funds distributed through the New York State Green Innovation Grant Program for the construction of an environmentally proactive surface and sub-grade storm water management system. Thus far the Institution has added a wetlands area near the South Gate and rain gardens at Fletcher Hall, Peck Avenue and South Lake, and in University Park. They have also created buffer gardens at the Glidden Shoreline on the northwest side of the iconic Bell Tower.
In partnership with National Geographic Society, Chautauqua Institution will be presenting a series of events and lectures on Water Matters, the importance of water both locally and globally, during Week 4, July 15 through 21. On Sunday, July 15, from noon to 4 p.m., during Water EXPO on Bestor Plaza, 18 area non-profits and government agencies will exhibit examples of programs in progress and the roles they are playing in protecting and enhancing local water resources. In addition, Chautauqua County's Water Emergency Team will exhibit its watercraft and the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission will be present all weekend with its Life Below the Waterline mobile aquarium exhibiting fish taken from Chautauqua Lake by NYSDEC.
Both of these organizations are members of a collaborative partnership of volunteers from 11 member organizations under the Chautauqua Lake Management Commission. The CLMC is aggressively working with county, town and village officials to develop local laws to reduce storm water runoff and soil erosion with the idea that implementing simple changes can significantly affect the health of the lake.
For more information on the healthy landscape and conservation efforts in Chautauqua County, visit the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy at www.chautauquawatershed.org. When visiting the area, be sure to stop by the rain gardens and demonstration sites located on Chautauqua Institution's grounds. Locations are listed along with information about Chautauqua Lake and the Institution's plans to keep Chautauqua Lake vibrant and beautiful at www.ciweb.org/CHQ-lake-management/#about.