Growing up in this area has made the health and longevity of Chautauqua Lake very important to me. I believe that each one of us who spends time in this beautiful place and enjoys the lake should give back and help preserve it. To use a familiar cake reference, I want my children to be able to have their lake and swim in it too.
If you have been in our lake, then you know that it struggles with excessive algal blooms and plant growth. Another problem it faces may be less obvious to many of us - the continued sedimentation of the lake, where dirt and debris flow into the lake, pollute it and make it shallower. But these major problems can be greatly reduced by creating buffers between runoff and the lake and by preserving the wetlands that drain into the lake.
This summer, I decided to volunteer for the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the quality of Chautauqua County's waters. While working here, I have learned so much about the area I grew up in, and my aspirations of helping protect our lake have only grown. I have also been given the amazing opportunity to make a difference right now - an opportunity you have too.
Whitney Bay is an important site not only for the watershed functions it possesses but also for the habitat it provides for a large number of wildlife species, like this Great Egret pictured above.
There is an important area of wetland property in Whitney Bay that the Conservancy is trying to acquire so that it will be permanently protected land. This property acts as a protective barrier to the lake. With a stream running right through the property directly into the lake, the wetland vegetation on this land holds that sediment in place and filters out the contaminants that would otherwise flow right into the water. A healthy lake starts with a healthy watershed, and this property is an opportunity to permanently preserve an important piece of that watershed.
Beyond all of the reasons this land should be conserved for the health of our lake, it is also home to a number of beautiful wildflowers and a vast number of creatures. While working on this site, I have seen geese, herons, wood ducks, frogs, toads, butterflies, woodpeckers, turtles, beavers and small snakes.
But I am not the only one who has experienced the wealth of life on this property. In excitement over my talk of the herons that live at the Whitney Bay properties, my mom (who loves herons) wanted to go check it out. Unfortunately, this land is still privately owned, so she wasn't able to go out and enjoy the birds by land, but this didn't stop her. While scoping out the property via boat, she discovered something inspiring, or as she would later tell me, "It's a sign! We really need to save this property!" What she saw was a Great Egret. A large, all-white bird that is very rarely seen in our neck of the woods. That's another example of how special this land truly is. We need to protect this habitat because all of the creatures that call it home depend on it.
Now I hope you are asking yourself, "How can I help?" My answer for you is by donating to the Conservancy and specifying that you want your donation to go towards the conservation of the Whitney Bay Project. In order to purchase this land for conservation, the Conservancy has to raise $150,000 by Sept. 1. That is a large goal in a very short amount of time. So far we have raised $17,000 through generous donations. It makes me happy to see how many people have reached out to help us reach our goal and protect this land, but we still have a long ways to go. So please, donate now and join us in this project!
Donations can be mailed to the Conservancy directly at 413 N. Main St., Jamestown, NY 14701. Or you can donate online via PayPal at www.chautauquawatershed.org. To stay up-to-date on how much we have raised and for more information about the property check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/chautauquawatershed or our blog at whitney4whitneybay.blogspot.com.