Lake Friendly Living is a concept that was born out of a desire to create sustainable habits for all residents of the region to preserve and bolster lake health.
For obvious reasons, the Finger Lakes region is reliant on lake health- whether it be a source of drinking water, recreation, or economic sustainability.
The first week of May is Lake Friendly Living Awareness Week, and was launched by Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association, along with the lake associations across the region. Maura Toole, who serves as program director for Lake Friendly Living Awareness Week says that most residents overlook the very simple actions that can be taken that do have a big impact.
“Lake friendly living is really a simple approach to helping to protect the water quality of our lakes,” she explained. “We drink that water, we use that water for recreational fun, we use it for fishing, we eat those fish. So let’s just understand that protecting the lake is a really important mission and one that everyone no matter where you live can be part of.”
The way advocates like Toole connect this for the average resident- is reminding them that everyone is a ‘watershed resident’. For example, you might live several miles from the nearest lake, like Seneca or Cayuga if you resident in Seneca County. However, you’re part of a watershed, which means the actions taken on your own property do translate to the overall health of the lake. “Water moves from your yard and eventually makes it to the lake. That’s why [everyone] has a part to play.”
She says the idea for a full-awareness week surfaced before last year. It was something that several individuals from the lake associations around the Finger Lakes had been thinking about. “We launched last year, our biggest request was not just to learn, but to apply and take action- individual action among residents was the pledge, so our big promotion around taking the pledge, which was meeting your own honor system commitment, is where it began.”
But that was in the midst of a global pandemic, which isn’t over- but mindsets have certainly changed over the last year. For one, people became far more engaged with their local environment in 2020 than in other years. “People were spending more time at home, in their yards, maintaining social distance- and all of a sudden, meeting those commitments didn’t seem as daunting.”
There has been ample discussion about the future of lake health, and the various businesses that play a role in it. For example, wineries and vineyards, which are typically located around lakes. While they play a part, the Lake Friendly Living Awareness Week shifts the focus. “If you don’t own a winery, vineyard, or farm- we still want you to be engaged. They are engaging in practices that are going to help turn the corner with lake health, but the average resident who may only have a half- or quarter-acre can really make a difference too.”
A range of virtual events were planned for this year, with the intent to take them in-person next time around. “This has really been a great way for us to build out the week and get our own feet under us. Last year was an overwhelming success and we’re expecting this year to be the same way. Hopefully by next year we’ll be in an even better place to host a number of events in-person, with even more engagement as people really get into the swing of working in their own space to improve our overall lake health.”
Toole says there will be a handful of ‘critical categories’ hit during the awareness week. Education will go far beyond this week, but strike an important chord in showcasing the advocacy element of what’s happening in the Finger Lakes.
First, minimizing runoff on private property. She says there are a range of steps that can be taken to ensure that less runoff happens. For example, using pavers instead of covering a large surface area with black top, or planting more green space, which helps prevent excess runoff. “Runoff brings pollutants, sediments, and things that are not necessarily great for our lakes. So think about the areas in your yard or property that can help reduce the volume of runoff.”
Second, involves eliminating or lessening pollutants. “They can come from oils, cars, fertilizers, pesticides, and even pet waste,” Toole explained. “When it comes to runoff- ensuring that these things are being captured or slowed before entering the lake is crucial.”
Third, involves capturing water. “It’s part of that minimizing runoff category,” she added. “The water coming onto your land can be very useful. If you capture water- with a rain barrel or something similar, it helps a great deal.”
Toole says that it comes down to small steps that everyone can take. “If that message is heard and received- then implemented, we can really start to put a dent into some of the trends we’re seeing in overall lake health,” she explained. “Little steps make a difference. Especially when they’re involving the collective, so talk to your neighbors- especially if they own larger pieces of land. See if there’s ways you can work together with neighbors to develop neighborhood plans, and find out what short-term steps you can take on your own property.”
Even after Lake Friendly Living Awareness Week ends, resources will be made available on their website at www.flrwa.org.
Josh is the president and publisher of FingerLakes1.com. Have a question? Send them to [email protected].