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Collaborating for Chadakoin River Restoration

We recently partnered with the Mental Health Association of Chautauqua County and Roger Tory Peterson Institute for a unique art project that will help restore native wildflowers along the Chadakoin River as part of our River restoration efforts and, at the same time, help explore the role of art and artists in protecting freshwater ecosystems.


In June, the College Community Gardens and MHACC held public workshops where regional artist Sara Baker Michalak showed participants how to make river clay seed balls filled with native wildflower seeds. The seeds were courtesy of our very own conservationist, Carol Markham. The turtle-shaped seed balls will be used to fill a turtle statue made from vines sustainably harvested from one of our nature preserves, and the statue will then be featured as part of RTPI’s upcoming art exhibit “Art that Matters to the Planet: Clarity.” The exhibit will run from August 2nd to October 27th and explore the role of art and artists in protecting freshwater ecosystems across the country – including lakes and ponds, rivers and streams, and freshwater wetlands – and all the life they support, including fish, reptiles and amphibians, birds and mammals.


Following the run of the exhibit, the clay turtles will be placed along a section of shoreline along the River where they will dissolve and spread native plant seed along the banks. Some of the many varieties of seeds used in the seed balls were common milkweed, butterfly weed, river oats, blue vervain, blue flag iris, purple coneflower and Joe Pye weed. These native wildflowers will then help to provide stability to the bank as well as provide food and shelter for many species of animals who call the River home.


One of those species is the spiny softshell turtle. These turtles are listed in New York State as a species of “special concern” and are one of the few turtle species that can breathe under water. This, however, makes them highly susceptible to water pollution and other human disturbances. By working to restore the water quality and shoreline habitat of the River where they reside, we are also helping to ensure the long-term survival of these amazing animals here in Chautauqua County, one of many wonderful benefits to the project!


For more details about the “Art that Matters” exhibit, visit


Photos courtesy College Community Gardens and Sara Baker Michalak


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