My Summer Punch List

The newly opened Chadakoin Park Trail is a great place to visit this summer. Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver

I love having a list. A list helps me stay on track and makes me feel like I have accomplished something at the end of the day. On more than one occasion, though, evening will come, and I might not have too many things crossed off my list. But I vow this summer will be different!

For the past 15+ years, my summers have involved teaching young writers at Chautauqua Institution. It was both a privilege and a joy to interact with so many interesting students from all over the world, but the commitment consumed much of my time and energy. This year, I gave up the teaching and plan to fill my days from a list of local outdoor hiking adventures, even though I would rather be playing on Chautauqua Lake. Sadly, with the deplorable lake conditions in Burtis Bay due to the weeds and blue green algae, I don’t launch my kayak or paddle board at my house for fear of falling into the slimy, smelly mess surrounding my dock. But, I am an eternal optimist and am not going to sit in my house and mope. Instead, I will just hit the trails instead of the water this summer.

At the top of my list are my old favorites, places I love but haven’t seen in a few years. I will start off with some short jaunts where I can run some of the distance. I’ve started participating in 5K races, and I’ve fallen in love with those staged on nature trails.

The little horseshoe loop behind Southwestern Elementary isn’t too long or too challenging, but it will bring back a lot of good memories so that’ll be my first venture. From there, I’ll go to Bergman Park on Baker Street in Jamestown and do the outer ring. I usually cross-country ski there, so seeing it in the summer will be fun.

On another day, I will go across town where I can almost hear College Park, near Jamestown Community College, calling my name. Again, this is one of my skiing spots, so I am not sure what the summer has to offer me here. Across the street from College Park is the Roger Tory Peterson Institute with its beautiful trails, and it is a must-do. On the way home, I can take a look at Lakeview Cemetery and see if it looks like it should be on the list also.

As I sit here thinking of the places I can go, the list is getting longer by the minute! I’ll try to find Emory Park again and visit the Bentley Sanctuary. Allen Park, the Audubon Community Nature Center and Long Point are good ones too. I also can’t pass up Dobbins Woods on Bly Hill Road or Akeley Swamp. I can pull out my maps and visit different spots on the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail, especially those near Panama. The Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail and the Rails to Trails in Mayville are not familiar to me, so maybe it’s time to change that.

Whew! I’m getting tired just writing my list, but I know I have to add one more very important trail – the Jamestown Riverwalk. By the time you read this article, the grand opening of the Chadakoin Park Trail portion of the Riverwalk will have already happened, and I hope it was a success. I’ve already walked a portion of the trail and can’t wait to do the entire thing. The downtown pedestrian bridges are slated to officially open on July 7. I won’t be in town for either event, but you can bet your hiking shoes I’ll be cruising the Riverwalk when I return and checking off another item on my summer punch list!

Hope to see you on the trails this summer!

Susan M. Songster Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. 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 or visit or