On August 8, 1957, over 60 people attended a meeting, held at the American Legion in Cassadaga, to discuss the safe and proper use of the Cassadaga Lakes. It was soon voted on and approved to form the Cassadaga Lakes Association for the purpose of promoting safety procedures on our lakes, that the interest of all persons using the lakes for whatever purpose, would be served, and with the maximum of pleasure and safety for all. Dr. Walter Lawrence was elected the first President and the Board consisted of the following persons:
Vice Presidents - William F. Johnson, Clarence Hartlieb, Clifford Cornish;
Secretary - Dorothy Sahloff;
Treasurer - Walter West;
Lakes Representatives - Jerry Deuink, Laura Stegman, Robert Truesdale.
The CLA really got into the swing of things the following year and continued for the next eight years to manage the safety and utility of the lakes, sponsor social events to unite the Lakes community, manage a well run Lakes Park on Lily Dale Lake, and tackle the ever growing weed problems plaguing the three lakes.
The First Regatta Day was held on July 5, 1958. Opening the day was a boat parade of over 40 vessels. Highlighting the festivities was a water skiing show featuring slalom and trick skiing, ski jumping and a clown act of stunt skiing. The Cassadaga High School band, led by Cliff Cornish, closed out the day with an evening concert.
In September of 1959, the first meeting of the incorporated Cassadaga Lakes Association was held, with Cliff Cornish acting as temporary chairman. Following the organizational meeting was the first annual meeting of the corporation. Cliff Cornish was elected to serve as the President.
Holiday dances, picnics at the Lakes Park and other social activities were sponsored by the CLA throughout the ensuing years. Because the association membership was comprised of a large number of skiers - the most notable being Peggy Johnson, Canadian Amateur champ and a member of the famed Cyprus Garden Ski Show - the CLA began a Ski Club in 1961. 60 members, from seven to twenty one years old, soon joined and free lessons were given for beginners to advanced skiers.
Also in 1961, the Eurasian milfoil choking the three lakes had replaced water safety as the number one issue for the CLA. Both Findley Lake and Chautauqua Lake were using Hockney Underwater Weed Cutters and so the CLA, after discussing various options for weed control, decided to purchase a Hockney model A cutter for $750. The CLA soon added a transport barge and modified its Army “duck? to help in the fight.
By 1965, low membership and volunteer efforts, rising costs, and complaints about the weed cutting efforts were taking a toll on the viability of the association. When the CLA lost the lease for its Lake Park, a major source of revenue and also its docking area, the organization was unable to continue.
However, the demise of the CLA only exacerbated the weed problems. Left unchecked, they became a major nuisance and were rendering the lakes unusable. In 1982, Bob Reuther, a water skier and member of the original CLA Ski Club, and Glenn Thorpe, an avid fisherman, collaborated to re-organize the CLA. Glenn, who was elected President, devoted much of his time and energy into restoring the association and once again carrying out its mission of protecting the lakes for the good of all.
Although chemical spraying was a necessity during the first year, it became apparent that mechanical harvesting was the preferred choice of weed abatement. In 1989, the CLA purchased its second harvester, with the help of a $30,000 grant secured by Sen. Jess Present. The Senator aided the CLA again in 1996 when a $20,000 grant provided a tractor. Sen. Pat McGee secured $8,000 in funding for a transport barge in 2002. And in 2008, Sen. Cathy Young secured a Municipal Initiative Grant through the NYSDEC for $75,000 to purchase a new aquatic weed harvester.
During these years, the CLA also sponsored the (in)famous Carp Contests as well as other social events. The Lew Mead Fishing Derby is a yearly event to promote the lakes and encourage the younger generations to enjoy our lakes and appreciate how lucky we are to live here. The CLA also purchased property for a Lakes Association building, which was dedicated to long time lakes advocate Ward Washington.
While the current organization still faces some of the same problems that hindered the original association, the CLA continues to prosper and grow under dedicated and tireless leadership and with the help of an environmentally aware and appreciative membership and community. The Cassadaga Lakes are our lakes and that makes them our responsibility. The Cassadaga Lakes Association has accepted, and will continue to accept, the challenges of protecting our lakes for the maximum of pleasure and safety for all.
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Presidents of the Cassadaga Lakes Association:
1957-1958 Dr. Walter Lawrence
1958-1959 Charles Webster
1959-1960 Clifford Cornish
1961-1962 Robert Taylor
1962-1964 Gerald Swift
1964-1982 Robert Fuller
1982-1991 Glenn Thorpe
1991-1997 Brad Blizzard
1997-2003 Karen Connelly
2003-2004 Brad Blizzard
2004-2005 Bill Baker
2005-2006 Dave Snyder
2006-2011 Tom Cooper
2011-2019 Dennis Collins
2019 - Nancy Wickmark
Cassadaga Beach, 1970
Lilly Dale Beach, 1970
Lazy Days on the Upper Lake
Train Stop & Foot Bridge