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‘A Banner Year’

Boat Stewards Report Increased Traffic On Chautauqua Lake

Boat traffic increased significantly on Chautauqua Lake during the 2020 pandemic, especially for kayakers. Helping to track the influx of boaters from outside of the area and monitor for invasive species were stewards from the Chautauqua Lake Association. P-J file photos by Jay Young

Chautauqua Lake was visited by an increased number of boaters in 2020, in particular kayakers looking to enjoy the outdoors in a safe way during the COVID-10 pandemic.

Efforts to prevent the spread of invasive species into local waterways ramped up along with traffic, thanks to continued work by the Chautauqua Lake Association’s Boat Steward Aquatic Invasive Species Spread Prevention Program.

CLA boat stewards are part of a statewide effort coordinated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that aims to monitor boat traffic across thousands of lakes, ponds and rivers in order to prevent the transfer of invasive species.

“We have regular contact with officials in Albany about this invasive species program,” CLA executive director Doug Conroe said. “Our program is funded through a DEC grant. It is managed locally, however, it is all tied into the statewide data bank system.”

According to the state DEC boat stewards educated more than 500,000 water recreationists, inspected almost 350,000 watercraft at more than 200 locations, and intercepted more than 19,000 findings of aquatic invasive species in 2020.

On Chautauqua Lake, there was a significant increase in AIS prevention efforts by the CLA.

In total, 17,043 surveys were conducted in 2020 compared to 8,252 in 2019, including 19,650 total boats compared to 9,753 in 2019.

Of the boats surveyed, 5% were found to contain invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil and curlyleaf pondweed.

Watercraft visits were recorded from 38 other states, including 2,650 from Pennsylvania and 1,213 from Ohio.

Long Point State Park was the busiest launch in 2020 with 2,822 boats, while Bemus Point and Mayville followed close behind with 2,390 and 2,385 boats respectively.

The increased use of kayaks was of note in 2020, with 4,296 launches recorded.

“We attribute the huge increase in numbers to, No. 1 the attractiveness of Chautauqua Lake, and No. 2 the COVID situation where people changed their recreation patterns,” Conroe said. “The lake provided an excellent opportunity to recreate without being in crowded conditions. We think all of that combined helped to make it a banner year and we are expecting the same in 2021. The thing that amazes us as we look at the situation is the large number of kayaking vessels, and also how significant the fishing activity is. It just reinforces what everybody knows about Chautauqua Lake being a stellar fishery.”

During the summer of 2020, marina owners and boat rental services also reported increases in business as the public looked for ways to enjoy the summer while socially distanced.

The CLA anticipates having 10-13 stewards actively working weekends at seven launches on Chautauqua Lake this season in addition to personnel at Cassadaga Lake, Barcelona Harbor and Dunkirk Harbor. Applications can be found at www.chautauqualakeassociation.org/employment.

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