Talk of creating power boat access to the Chadakoin riverfront in the downtown Jamestown area always brings to mind John Luensman, the county's late and great planning director.
It happened again last week when people got together to go over a study that looks at opportunities for economic development and recreation along the Chadakoin riverfront through Jamestown.
One man mentioned his long-held dream of boaters having access to the downtown Jamestown area from Chautauqua Lake via the Chadakoin River. Others talked about kayaking and fishing as well as green spaces and walking trails.
We can well imagine this discussion prompting Luensman to talk about the hydrology of Chautauqua Lake's outlet and the Chadakoin River.
He might first mention the lake itself, explaining in part that the average summertime elevation of the lake's surface is 1,308 feet above sea level - stated as "msl."
Based on a study by the county Planning and Development Department during Luensman's watch titled Chautauqua Lake and its Watershed as a Hydraulic System, we imagine him explaining that, as you move down the lake toward the outlet, the bottom has a depth of about 5 feet or 1,303-plus msl. The outlet was dredged in years past and has a maximum bottom depth ranging from 5 to 10 feet or 1,303 to 1,298 msl.
As the crow flies, the distance from Celoron to the boatlanding on Jones and Gifford Avenue is roughly a mile. By boat on the meandering river, it is, we figure, a couple of miles. Once at the boatlanding, you encounter a manmade barrier - the new bridge there is too low for vessels bigger than rowboats and canoes to pass under.
Continuing downriver, the Chadakoin gets shallow some 2,200 feet beyond the Sixth Street bridge. That is where the shale bottom of the Chadakoin rises to a depth estimated to be 1,302.5 msl.
We don't know the elevation of the surface of the river at that point. Certainly it is well below the average 1,308 msl lake level since, just a little further on, the top of the Warner Dam sill is 1,300.6 msl.
Yes. The bottom of the Chadakoin River not far upstream is higher than the level at which water stops flowing through Warner Dam, which is near Main Street.
You can see the problem with power boats and the work that would have to be done to clear a way for them.
The shale-bottomed shallows in the river aside, private businessman and BPU chairman John Zabrodsky asked the most pointed question when thinking about recreation and economic development along the Chadakoin River in Jamestown. It is this:
What, for visitors, would be the destination? What would people find at the waterfront in Jamestown to make a visit worthwhile and keep them coming back?
For boaters, remember, it would be a 2-plus mile trip down the Chadakoin at the posted speed limit of 5 mph from Celoron. What destination would be worth the half-hour one-way ride to keep boaters coming back?
Our region already is blessed with the riches of Lake Chautauqua, Lake Erie, Kinzua reservoir, three excellent state parks, county hiking trails and plenty of great fishing spots in creeks and rivers.
With a goal of using the riverfront to attract more people and, thus, development in the downtown area, there needs to be a concrete answer to Zabrodsky's question.