Gateways To Nature
By Jonathan Townsend
CWC Lands Manager
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is the only organization in Chautauqua County that works to proactively address the root causes of water quality degradation, habitat fragmentation and environmental pollution. We do this through land conservation. For nearly three decades, the CWC has worked to protect the lake shores, forests and wetlands of scenic Chautauqua County. This work is critical to keeping our waterways clean and providing habitat for wildlife. Land protection is one of the only effective long-term solutions to these issues, as well as being one of the less expensive ones. CWC has long held education and public access as an integral part of what we do. Every one of our network of more than 1,000 acres of nature preserves is open to the public, and we work to host regular nature walks throughout the year. CWC is now ready to take it to the next step. With great excitement, we would like to formally announce our “Gateways to Nature” initiative, which is designed to improve visibility of our preserves, enhance public access and develop a more robust education program.
As many of my readers may know, Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant is heavily involved in the community, providing funding and volunteers to a wide variety of local organizations. In early 2017, CWC was approached by Cummins regarding funding opportunities. Initially, we simply wanted funding to purchase signage to help people recognize the presence of a publicly accessible nature preserve. Cummins sent back our first grant application, saying that they knew we could make more happen if they provided us with more funding. Eventually, the “Gateways to Nature” program was developed. This program has three key components. One is providing funding for the purchase and installation of main preserve signs. The next component dealt with tools and materials necessary for trail maintenance and preserve stewardship. The third and final aspect involved developing a novel educational initiative that would involve local school districts.
The money provided by Cummins will assist CWC in commissioning more than a dozen main preserve signs, which will be installed this summer. It also provided funding for power trimmers and other tools needed to efficiently maintain hiking trails found at our properties, as well as support to build kiosks, bridges and other preserve improvement projects that are typically difficult for smaller non-profits to budget. This enhanced ability to fund work that helps make for a more pleasing hiking experience is very exciting, but we are even more excited about the next step of the initiative that is just now ramping up, the educational component.
CWC is in the process of reaching out to area school districts to gauge teacher interest in working with us as we develop novel, self-guided, nature education programming. With the funding from Cummins, we are able to fully support these initial programs that are designed to get schoolchildren out into our preserves and learn the basics of plant and animal identification, ecology, geology and other important topics that will inspire the next generation of conservationists. With the materials developed by CWC, area schools can jump on board and get their students out to our properties with everything ready to go! We can even help fund transportation initially, until this funding runs out.
If you are involved in the school system and are interested in working with CWC on this program, please feel free to reach out! All members of the public are welcome at any of our properties. Call or email us or check out our website for more specific information.
The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. For more information, call 664-2166, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed.