Special to The Citizen

On Sept. 9, 2023, free boat rides were given to CNY TomatoFest participants, compliments of the Owasco Watershed Lake Association. Thanks to the Owasco Marina and others who donated and drove their boats from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — over 100 people sailed out of the Owasco River and onto beautiful Owasco Lake! Many who sailed on the boats had never been on the lake, and many had not known that Owasco Lake is their drinking water!

Thank you to the Owasco Watershed Lake Association! This is the first time TomatoFest has offered free boat rides and watershed activities for children and families. The Owasco Watershed Lake Association’s outreach, education and dedication to preservation of the lake and its watershed underpins its willingness to undertake the administration, expense, time and effort to offer such an amazing opportunity for community members to enjoy at TomatoFest. Thank you, too, to OWLA for providing the insurance for the boat activity. The OWLA treasurer thoroughly researched insurance options and the OWLA board approved the expense!

Thank you volunteers: High school and junior high students, Rotary Club members, food pantries and OWLA volunteers provided lakeside helpers to fit lifejackets, offered assistance on and off boats, and talked about lake preservation. Meanwhile, downtown, additional volunteers assigned boats and scheduled the SCAT Van to ride up to the lake and back, and provided watershed awareness activities for children. Rotary Club volunteers greeted visitors at the OWLA boat ride booth, helped schedule the riders and provided children’s watershed activities. Then, at 1 p.m., many Rotarians performed in the Genesee Street Voices choir at the festival! Student volunteers helped at the boat launch, as well as downtown at the OWLA booth. Students taught children how to pour water over the watershed model to watch the water carry colored “pollutants” into streams, ponds and lakes, and assisted them in making their own “crumpled paper” watershed models. Thanks to the Owasco Watershed Management Council for providing the watershed model.

Thank you to Owasco Marina for donating two party boats for the day!

Thank you to Emerson Park for the use of the boat launch, which allowed easy access for boats and easy access for the SCAT Van to drop off and pick up people at the lake.

Thank you to the SCAT Van for providing a 12-seat van, and to Tracey Germano, who volunteered to drive the van all day!

Thank you to our watershed inspector, Abbie Hai, who assisted at the lake. Abbie had helped Owasco Lake Day boat riders back when she was in high school. Abbie’s willingness to step right up and do anything she was asked was a tremendous help to those getting passengers ready for their boat tour and getting them on and off the boats.

Thankfully, it was a beautiful day throughout Owasco Lake’s 200-square-mile watershed. What a day to be on the water or celebrating in downtown Auburn!

Thankfully, 40,000 residents living in Auburn and in communities along the Owasco River are able to drink delicious Owasco Lake water! And thousands more enjoy boating, swimming and fishing, and the glorious views on Owasco Lake.

Thankfully, we have an endless number of community-minded folks devoted to preserving our lake and watershed, who generously volunteer their time to make it all happen! OWLA and its partners work tirelessly year-round to protect and improve this precious, irreplaceable treasure.

Currently, OWLA is looking for volunteers with interest and skills in education and native plants and rain gardens. Can you help?