Rally Held To Celebrate Local Gem In Lake Erie

So much of the livelihoods of area residents depends on Lake Erie, and an event on Saturday highlighted that fact.

Several dozen community members and officials from across the region gathered at the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club in Dunkirk to celebrate the importance of the largest body of water in the area, as part of the second annual Lake Erie Rally. The rally was held by the Lake Erie Management Commission, in conjunction with Chautauqua County and the city of Dunkirk.

County Executive George Borrello noted maintaining the lakes and waterways is a critical component to the beauty of this corner of the world. He added that maintenance includes major projects such as streambank stabilization, erosion control and dredging.

“I’ve been throughout the entire county, and without a doubt, our lakes and waterways are the most important natural asset we have in Chautauqua County,” he said. “We really have a great opportunity here to leverage all of (the development projects going on along the shoreline) and make this a great place for people to call home.”

Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas and Development Director Rebecca Yanus echoed Borrello’s sentiments by touching upon various projects being completed in the city, including improvements and upgrades at Wright Park and Point Gratiot.

Yanus pointed out a new concept design for the Dunkirk Pier will be revealed Tuesday at 4 p.m. in City Hall after gathering public feedback on the first design.

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed’s field representative, Katrina Fuller, noted securing funding for dredging and the Westfield and Dunkirk breakwalls has been and continues to be important to the congressman.

David Spann, field manager for the Chautauqua County Soil and Water Conservation District, outlined a number of projects the district has completed for area waterways, most notably streambank stabilization, erosion control, hydroseeding and manure storage.

“We can find grants for farmers to properly manage and mix their chemicals,” Spann noted.

Joanna Panasiewicz, watershed coordinator for the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance, explained a number of ways average people can help improve water quality and protect lakes and streams from unwanted chemicals and waste.

She pointed out the most important tip she can give is for people to be mindful of what they put on the ground, as much of what gets left behind can be carried away by stormwater runoff and enter bodies of water (and ultimately drinking water). She added you can also direct runoff toward rain gardens and vegetation, which absorb the water, filter out the pollutants and prevent it from entering waterways.

“Only rain belongs in the drains,” Panasiewicz stressed. “Make sure you’re disposing of everything properly and literally never ever dump anything down the drains.”

Zen Olow, chairman of the Lake Erie Management Commission, presented the Rusty Wrench Award to the late James Nichols, a longtime supporter of Lake Erie. Nichols died in February and was born in Dunkirk in 1949. He was a past president of the Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club and chairperson of the Dunkirk Harbor Commission for 15 years.

At the end of the event, a rain barrel and composter were raffled off.