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Gratitude For Chautauqua Lake

Rockets Red Flare

Picture of the Celoron Boardwalk. Submitted photo

When someone says Chautauqua Lake, what is the first thing you think of? For a lot of people — myself included — the Fourth of July is near the top of the list.

Independence Day brings up different sorts of nostalgia in all of us — thinking about fireworks, summertime, BBQs, family, America. The lake seems to fit perfectly in with that list of what we all love about the holiday. It doesn’t matter if you spend July 4 cruising around in a boat, fishing, walking on the shoreline, or just watching fireworks shot out over the water. Enjoying the lake is an intimate part of the celebration for many of us. When the sun goes down and red flares begin to light up like hundreds of stars around the 42 miles of shoreline, we are reminded of the good things in life.

Thanks to the work of many different organizations and stakeholders there will be no shortage of enjoyment this year. Financial support from our local charitable foundations as well as other public and private investments help make this all possible. In a welcome return to normalcy from the pandemic, the Village of Lakewood will once again serve as a hub of July 4 activity. Vendors will return to the streets of Chautauqua Avenue, which was recently renovated with green infrastructure designed to improve the quality of water entering the lake. Fireworks will once again be enjoyed in the Village and all across the lake by residents and visitors, many of whom will have spent the day fishing, boating, or kayaking on the water. Lakewood is also preparing to construct a new playground at Hartley Park, and has plans to implement a new watershed project near the Grandview Estates to improve water quality and reduce flooding. The town of Busti also recently completed a swale retrofit project that will work to improve the watershed moving forward, and offers great facilities to the public with Loomis Park and waterfront opportunities at Smith Boys Marina.

Lots of exciting improvements have also happened in the Village of Celoron. The Chautauqua Harbor Hotel now provides an excellent venue for visitors coming to the Village by land or water. Lucille Ball Memorial Park has benefitted from the recent construction of a new amenities building, boardwalk, and kayak launch. The Village is also home to the Chautauqua Lake Fishing Association, which promotes the lake as a world-class destination for anglers and supports local events and organizations. Celoron is also seeking to improve the playground facilities at Lucille Ball Park, and is hosting a public meeting to discuss the project on Tuesday, July 5 at 6 p.m. at the Celoron Community Center.

Right nearby along the Chadakoin River there is another long list of projects to get excited about. McCrea Point Park, the Municipal Boat Landing, and the nearby Chautauqua Lake Rowing Association have all added to or improved their facilities in recent years, and are now connected by the Greater Jamestown Riverwalk. The Chadakoin is also scheduled to undergo further development and activation in the coming years, preserving the local environment and providing new opportunities to enjoy the area. Thanks to the recently opened Lawson Boat and Motor, there is now a brand new marina located right on the outlet near the Town of Ellicott and City of Jamestown line.

Further up on the Southwestern shore of the lake, there is still more to be grateful for. Chautauqua Institution recently opened its season, and will once again offer world-class programs and entertainment to thousands and thousands of visitors from across the country. The Bemus Point-Stow Ferry has begun carrying passengers along the narrows again after undergoing major renovations. The Village of Bemus Point offers a great downtown area with plenty of waterfront dining as well as the The Lawson Center Boat Museum. A large public sewer extension is underway in the Town of North Harmony, with more infrastructure expansion planned in the next few years. This construction, and a similar sewer extension being pursued in the Town of Chautauqua, will significantly improve the water quality of the lake moving forward.

The Northern shore of the lake offers its own host of great attractions, including Midway and Long Point State Parks. The Ellery Town Park offers us a great modern athletic facility, catering to those who play baseball, football, soccer, tennis, basketball, and other activities. The Village of Mayville hosts the Chautauqua Belle, and has begun plans to upgrade its public facilities through the Mayville Strategic Waterfront Activation Master Plan. All of these different projects and developments are supported by folks working to bring new visitors and residents to the area every summer, including the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Realtors, County Department of Planning and Development, Industrial Development Agency, Chamber of Commerce, and Partnership for Economic Growth. Visiting any of these destinations throughout the summer, you are likely to find restaurants and businesses filled with customers along the way. CCVB offers an up-to-date calendar of events happening on and around the lake, and recently published an article covering the highlights of July 4 which can be found here https://www.tourchautauqua.com/media/blog/fourth-of-july-fun-in-2022.

More scientific research is being done on the lake and in the watershed than ever before, including contributions from some of the most respected professionals in their fields. Millions of dollars in state funding have been leveraged for projects throughout the watershed in the past five years. These programs help to inform and facilitate all of the economic and social development that we have seen and are continuing to see.

Managing and maintaining the lake is, understandably, a hotly debated and much discussed part of life in Chautauqua County. Sometimes we forget that many of the reasons for that are positive. The memories and the enjoyment that we all have on days like July 4 are a big part of the equation — we all care about the lake. If we didn’t care, if we didn’t have this close relationship to this body of water, then there wouldn’t be passionate agreements and disagreements about how we interact with it. It is precisely because it means so much to us that we want to see it cared for and maintained for future generations — as well as the present. On a day like today it is good to remember that, to appreciate and enjoy all of the great work that has been done, and reflect on why we do it.

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