CHAUTAUQUA - A plethora of flora is what's in store for the Chautauqua Institution.
Recently, the Chautauqua Institution announced it has made plans to implement ecologically friendly landscaping practices this offseason. New practices include the construction of rain gardens and the designation of "no-mow zones."
The promotion of practices such as "no-mow zones" are not new to the county. As the general population better understands humanity's impact upon the environment, a greater number of county residents are doing their part to maintain an ecologically friendly lifestyle. According to Ryan Kiblin, Chautauqua Institution manager of grounds, garden and landscaping, the institution is happy to do its part.
The Fletcher Music Hall rain garden is the longest established rain garden in the Chautauqua Institution according to Ryan Kiblin.
P-J photo by Remington Whitcomb
"We have a lot of steep hillsides in Chautauqua," said Kiblin. "When you mow the lawn and it's only a few inches long, it's basically the same as a paved road. When it rains, all that rainwater gathers momentum, picks up sediment, and deposits it right into the lake. By allowing the grass to just grow, that gives you 12-18 inches of growth that slows that water down, creates some resistance, and gives the sediment a chance to settle out of it instead of rushing into the lake."
Kiblin was quick to state that the institution is not "going to just stop mowing the lawn." The institution has instead selected strategic locations which will best mitigate sediment flow into the lake, and the institution will do its best to make the zones attractive, as well.
"Instead of just leaving it unmowed, we've sculpted these areas," said Kiblin. "The areas have paths cut through them so guests can walk past, and we've trimmed the edges of the roads, as well. From looking at the zones, it's obvious that we've intentionally set these areas aside. It doesn't just look like we forgot to mow."
Kiblin said that when anything changes, people tend to question why, but so far no one on the grounds has been opposed to the no-mow zones.
"We're not trying to save money on labor or fuel," said Kiblin. "That's not why we're doing this. We're doing this to save the lake."
Additionally, the institution will be improving its stormwater management practices as well by building rain gardens - tiered terraces that use boulders and stones to slow down rainwater - reintroducing native species to the grounds and planting 11 new trees.
"The idea is to take this project along in baby steps," said Kiblin. "We have a few rain gardens along the grounds, and we've done a few different buffer zones on the lake shore so far. It's a matter of taking steps and showing people that we can make these changes in a small way, but they can have big effects on the lake. A lot of people are worried that these changes will limit use at the institution with regard to the lake and the grounds, but that's simply not the case. These practices will help to ensure that Chautauqua stays beautiful so people can use it indefinitely."
Kiblin was also quick to offer praise to Doug Conroe, Chautauqua Institution director of operations. According to Kiblin, Conroe has been promoting ecologically friendly practices around the lake for 15 years, however support was always limited. Now that many residents are able to see the problems that plague the lake and understand how human use has caused these problems, more and more people are willing to take steps to restore it.
"I've actually had homeowners from different areas on the lake stop me at (educational seminars) to tell me that they're sorry they never better understood how they were impacting the lake, and have since installed a buffer zone on their shoreline, or installed a rain garden where their rain gutter drains. So what we're doing here is affecting other areas of the lake. And that's a true joy, to know that others want to follow our actions."