Better Sooner Than Later

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE — Imagine the impression of Native Americans who, however long ago, first laid eyes on Chautauqua Lake.

With all of their respect for the natural world, they must have thought this lake was a treasure.

The first Europeans to encounter it, just over two centuries ago, must have thought the same.

The same is true of those who almost a century and a half ago founded what in many ways would become an iconic American cultural institution on the shores of the lake.

The lake is a natural resource that has attracted tourists from near and far for generations.

It’s each generation’s responsibility to conserve — not preserve, but conserve — this treasure of a natural resource.

What’s the difference between preserve and conserve? To preserve something is to leave it in its natural state. To conserve something is to use it responsibly so that others, now or in the future, can do the same.

Think of agriculture or forestry. To preserve the land would be not to use it at all. To conserve it would be to use it well while caring for it so that others can use it.

It works the same way with lakes, including Chautauqua Lake.

Most who enjoy living on, swimming in, boating on, or fishing on — or just being around — the lake understand the importance of caring for it. What they should and shouldn’t do is to a significant extent common sense.

Although lake weeds present tougher issues, the weed challenges aren’t tough to see.

Thanks to good efforts of many who have risen to meet these challenges, the challenges are fewer than they would have been. Such efforts can require both brains to conceive and fortitude to implement. For such efforts we should all be grateful.

Despite such efforts, those who can recall the quality of Chautauqua Lake with respect to weeds 50 years ago — or even 25 years ago — can tell us that, overall, weeds present a greater challenge now than then.

Are the challenges different in different part of the lake? Yes. They always have been. For example, all other things being equal, deeper waters will quite naturally have fewer weed challenges than shallower waters.

Multiple good solutions to these challenges are available. The better solutions should include neither lawsuits nor threats of lawsuits.

Yet whatever the causes of or solutions to the weed challenges, there’s no serious debate that, overall, the challenges are greater than they were 50 or even 25 years ago.

Drive around Chautauqua Lake and ask longtime lakefront property owners. You’ll hear this.

Ask longtime tourists. You’ll hear this.

Ask longtime recreational users of the lake. You’ll hear this.

Ask those who, for whatever reason, have sold their lakefront property. You’ll hear this.

Ask those whose enterprises depend to whatever extent on the lake. You’ll hear this.

You’ll hear about challenges weeds present.

Are weeds the only natural challenges Chautauqua Lake faces? No.

Yet there’s no serious debate that, overall, weeds present a greater challenge than they presented 50 or even 25 years ago.

Ask yourself this: If weed challenges remain on this trajectory, where will the lake be in another 50 or even 25 years?

Imagine living on, swimming in, boating on, or fishing on the lake then.

What kind of Chautauqua Lake will future generations inherit?

Solving Chautauqua Lake’s weed challenges, which will take significant time, will allow future generations to inherit the waters they deserve. That’s not hard to see.

The longer it takes to solve the challenges, the harder they’ll be to solve. That’s not hard to see either.

Better sooner than later.

Randy Elf’s paternal grandparents had a cottage at Cheney’s Point on Chautauqua Lake for 40 years.



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