Chautauqua Lake Conference offers opportunity for organizations to collaborate in discussion in 2019

Two men fish off a boat on Chautauqua Lake, Wednesday June 13, 2018, after an early morning rain. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Next summer, before the season begins, Chautauqua Institution will host a day-long conference, holding an open discussion with community members concerning Chautauqua Lake. Gathering various organizations involved around the lake, the Chautauqua Lake Conference’s main goal is working toward the further protection and sustainability of the lake and surrounding watershed.

“Chautauqua Institution is pleased to be among the organizations that have participated in the planning for the inaugural Chautauqua Lake Conference,” said Emily Morris, vice president of marketing and communications. “The spirit of this effort is about collaboration, education and building relationships for the benefit of the future of Chautauqua Lake. We applaud the organizers who envisioned this idea and have ushered it to fruition.”   

Ted First has been involved with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy for about 20 years, and was recently appointed to its board.

First spoke with Morris  about an idea to gather the different groups involved around the lake together to discuss the status of Chautauqua Lake with the public.

“We want to bring people together to understand all these fascinating interrelationships around the lake, and what are the symptoms we’re really concerned about,” First said. “Let’s get at the causes and see if we, as a community, can come up with an action plan where we can do the optimal, best, most effective thing.”

The Chautauqua Lake Conference is scheduled to be held June 19, 2019, at the Athenaeum Hotel.

“First thing we did was gather all the players and decide what our mission is,” First said. “Our mission is ‘Working together for a healthy Chautauqua Lake.’ ”

Eight major groups involved around the lake will invite community members and leaders to join in a discussion and education conference. The groups set to be involved include: Audubon Community Nature Center, Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua Lake and Watershed Management Alliance, Chautauqua Lake Association, Chautauqua Lake Partnership, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, Robert H. Jackson Center and Roger Tory Peterson Institute.

“We all agree on what we care about, and we all agree on what the causes are,” First said. “Now we need a road map for where we’re going.”

Twan Leenders, committee member and president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, said it’s important with the conference to create an outlet for education where the general public can be informed about all the important issues around the lake.

“Our interest is primarily a focus on the environment,” Leenders said. “We’re very much focused on making sure the lake is managed to a way that’s to the greatest benefit to the health of the environment, the health of the people and, also, to the economy of the region.”

Leenders stressed that protecting the watershed was key to a wide variety of “at-risk” species that depend on the high quality of watershed around the lake. This conference, Leenders said, offers a chance to give a voice to these animals and plants that otherwise have none.

Leenders said Chautauqua Institution provides a venue to not only reach people who aren’t here year-round, but demographics that might not otherwise receive this information.

“It’s incredibly difficult to get a breadth of information out to the different stakeholders and public,” Leenders said. “There’s so many different demographics involved with the lake in so many different ways that it’s really hard to find a way to get information out. We’re hoping this can be a venue, or platform, where we can open up to as many groups, as many people as possible, to really provide the strongest and broadest source of information as possible.”

Doug Conroe, committee member and president of the Chautauqua Lake Association, stressed that the conference is more about the reaching the community members and individual citizens.

“It’s more about getting the community informed than a platform for organizations,” Conroe said.

While the exact details of the conference are still being developed, Conroe said the purpose is to get the public thinking about different aspects of the lake, hearing different things hopefully from private individuals that come in with something to offer.

Conroe said he has hope that the conference can become a forum continuing for years to come.

“We see this, moving forward, as an annual public awareness program and an annual important public discussion program about issues involving the the lake and the lake’s environment,” Conroe said.

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The author Casey McCarthy

Casey McCarthy is a senior at Western Kentucky University majoring in journalism with minors in photojournalism and creative writing. Casey is covering the environment and Bird, Tree & Garden Club this summer for the Daily. In his free time, he enjoys playing golf, watching movies and reading science fiction.