New Hotel May Impact Lake Health

CELORON — The Chautauqua Harbor Hotel will open for business in a few days, but that hasn’t stopped David Hart, CEO of Hart Hotels and developer of the village’s newest resort, from looking into the future.

As a new entrepreneur on Chautauqua Lake’s shore, Hart said he was privy to the lake issues including the prevalence of weeds — Eurasian milfoil and curlyleaf pondweed — and algae blooms that have impeded recreation for many residents and tourists, especially in the village area.

“I think there’s a recognition that the quality of the water in the lake is an issue,” Hart said.

Not only has the appearance of the lake around the hotel shifted into a green coating of algae and dying plant material, detracting from the physical beauty of the site, Hart is also aware that problems like boaters getting stuck in the weeds could impact tourists’ decisions to come to Chautauqua Lake.

The issue of weeds in the village’s portion of the lake persists because of the flow of biomass into the southeastern area. Shallowness of the water also lets sunlight grow unwanted plant material. Hart and his team noticed weeds growing behind the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel.

“We’re going to do some things to manage it,” Hart said.

Hart announced that he intends to help raise money to solve these issues. Helping raise money for treatments in future fundraising events and advocating lake health will be on Hart’s agenda. He said another duty of a prominent business in the area can be to shed light on what the issues are.

“Without the lake, we wouldn’t be there,” said Hart, who specifically chose Chautauqua Lake as the fourth waterfront to host one of his hotels, resorts that he said are built to revitalize waterfront areas and accentuate the local character.

Hart said he understands the need to protect the “beautiful asset” of Chautauqua Lake. When thinking about ways to join the initiatives to keep the lake healthy and clear for visitors and residents, Hart even considered leading the charge once the hotel is further established.

“One of our missions is to take that responsibility seriously,” Hart said. “At the end of the day, everybody wants the same thing and that’s . . . (a) better sustainable lake.”

He mentioned a goal of revitalizing the lake to help local businesses that are a draw for people to come to the area. Hart sympathized with Rick Willman, owner of the Summer Wind Cruise business on Chautauqua Lake, who has had problems with weeds clogging his boat’s heat exchange. It necessitated the engine to be cleaned, which takes entire business days off Willman’s calendar. A rescue boat had to help free The Summer Wind from weeds this summer as well.

“I believe all our concern is where the lake is going,” Willman said.

Greg Swan, owner of Ready About Sailing, said many of his boaters have gotten stuck in the weeds this summer and were rescued. He proposed that bouys be placed throughout the lake to mark channels that boats can more easily make their way through.

“I’ve never seen (the lake) this bad, and I’ve been around since the 60s,” Swan said.

“I spent more time in reverse backing weeds off than I did going forward,” Ellery Town resident Jim Armstrong said regarding his summer boating.

Paul Swanson, former general manager of the Chautauqua Lake Association, said that everyone should come together to figure out a solution for weed problems. Swans, Armstrong, Swanson, and Willman agreed that a solution needs to be based on objective evidence, but also that at least a temporary fix needs to be implemented for the sakes of the recreationalists in the area.

“Whatever the solution is, it needs to be a sustainable solution,” Swanson said.