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Giving Chautauqua County A Second Look

Updated: 6 days ago

Growing up in Chautauqua County, I always believed that I would one day leave and relocate to a larger city with more to offer. My hometown of Fredonia, New York, while charming in a small-town way, was never a part of the future I imagined myself to have. However, once I left to pursue my education, I realized that Chautauqua County has more to offer than I ever knew. 


After graduating from Fredonia High School, I decided to pursue my bachelor’s degree at the University at Buffalo, majoring in environmental studies. My new life provided me with independence and discovery as I became committed to studying the environment and advocating for conservation. When it was time to apply to graduate programs, I knew that I wanted to further my environmental studies and am extremely fortunate to be attending Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment for my Master of Environmental Management degree. Although moving 10 hours away has been exciting, it has also been frightening. Coming home is a lot more difficult and I find myself missing this area. Something about Chautauqua County makes me want to come home. 


A few months ago, my professors brought up the topic of summer internships. Although not a requirement, it is encouraged that students pursue summer internships to gain hands-on experience in the environmental field. At the time, I thought I would apply to various internships across the United States and hopefully obtain one in a larger city for a new adventure. However, when filling out applications, I realized that I did not want to relocate to another city – I wanted to move home and gain hands-on experience in my hometown. In searching for an internship in Chautauqua County, I discovered the Chautauqua Advancement Project, created by Chautauqua Works, to recruit young professionals looking for employment in the Jamestown region. I was fortunate enough to be placed with the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, a local nonprofit with the mission to preserve and enhance the Chautauqua region’s lands and waters. Through this internship, I have been involved in a multitude of experiences. From kayaking the Cassadaga Creek and Conewango Creek to identify hazardous areas that are unsafe for water recreation to assisting with aquatic invasive species surveys, I have been able to explore many aspects of the Conservancy’s incredible work. 


This internship has not only provided me with invaluable hands-on experience but has also opened my eyes to the amazing things happening in Chautauqua County. I have learned that Chautauqua County is home to the Marden E. Cobb Waterway Trail, two flat-water trails that both span over 25 miles and will provide opportunities for water recreation after the Conservancy has concluded clearing the hazardous sites. I’ve also learned just how prevalent and lucky we are to have freshwater sources throughout the County. From Cassadaga Creek and Conewango Creek to Chautauqua Lake and even Lake Erie, our County is fortunate to have these waterways, and every day we take them for granted. Chautauqua County also contains what I like to call “hidden diversity.” When kayaking the Cassadaga and Conewango Creeks, I was mesmerized by the plant and animal species that were thriving in these waters. From bald eagles to wood turtles to native plants, the biodiversity in this area is incredible and often overlooked. 


With my key takeaways in mind, I encourage young professionals in this area to research the companies and organizations and the valuable work they do in this County. I also encourage young professionals to apply to the vast and rewarding internships and jobs in this area before writing the area off as a small town with nothing to offer.

Article by Caroline Cameron, Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy Intern


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