Landscape architect Gowen presents shoreline action plan

John Ford | Staff Writer

As concerns grow about the future of Chautauqua Lake and its ecology, many property owners on and near the grounds have asked what they can do to help arrest or reverse the lake’s decline.

Dean Gowen will offer some answers at 3:30 p.m. today in McKnight Hall.

Gowen, a Buffalo-area landscape architect, has worked around the grounds on high-profile projects and regularly advises the operations and gardens staff.

The focus of today’s general information meeting will be Gowen’s Sustainable Chautauqua Lake Shoreline Action Plan, which was prepared at the request of Institution Director of Operations Doug Conroe.

The new study complements a drainage management plan Gowen helped to prepare for the Institution two years ago. That plan, he said, focused on uphill parts of Chautauqua, including the golf course but stopping at the shoreline.

Gowen’s earlier study helped the Institution win a large grant last year to greatly improve storm water runoff management on the grounds, particularly on a line from the golf course through the Ravine, by the Girls’ Club and to the lake. While permit issues delayed progress earlier this year, the project should proceed during the coming off-season.

Gowen said the new study represents the plan to improve Chautauqua’s shoreline areas, which he reviewed from both land and lake.

“The perspective is different: From the land side, erosion is unnatural, but it is happening,” he said. “From the lake side, there is wave action from storms and from recreational use. The shoreline is deteriorating. Basically, my mission is to help mitigate the effects of human activity on the lake.”

Gowen was instrumental in designing and installing the rain garden buffer area that stores and cleans water runoff in the Fletcher Music Hall area. He will offer some information and suggestions for property owners.

“What’s good for your lawn today will also be great for the nuisance weeds which threaten the health of the lake,” he said.

Gowen will brief Chautauquans on new organic fertilizers made with cutting-edge process called pyrolysis. Chautauqua’s gardens department already uses them to revitalize older gardens around the grounds and on the golf course. The technology used to make organic fertilizers is expensive but evolving, and, Gowen said, they might someday even be produced from recycled lake weeds.

His new study, as with many of Chautauqua’s environmental initiatives, will serve as a template for other municipalities in the county and region and reduce the Institution’s negative impact on Chautauqua Lake.