In 1966, a group of lake front property owners suspected the waters of the lake to be polluted. They conducted water tests that resulted in bacterial levels that exceeded levels which would permit public swimming. As a result of this testing the N.Y.S. Health Department threatened to close the public swimming beach located on Old Forge Pond. The number of ear infections and other health related problems occurring in Old Forge were a direct result of the poor water quality in the Fulton Chain.
Lake area residents and businesses looked to state and local agencies for assistance but because of the limited government resourses it became clear government help would not be forthcoming. As a result, many volunteers banded together to clean up the lake themselves. They held public meetings; they called upon other residents; they wrote endless letters to public officials and eventually in 1968 formed the Fulton Chain of Lakes Improvement Association, now recognized as the Fulton Chain of Lakes Association.
The purpose of the organization was and is today to protect our most precious resource, the water and watershed of the Fulton Chain of Lakes. The Association’s incorporation was signed September 15, 1968, at the home of Tom Shepherd. The initial signatures of the document were: Tom McCabe, Sr., Larry Doering, Lou Bonnett, L.C. Howell, Alan Burstein, Emilie Jones, Hubert Jones, Edward Mc Laughlin, Thomas Shepherd, and Ross Zornow. The election of officers was conducted on September 24, 1968. The following people were elected. Hubert Jones, President, L. C. Howell, V. P., Frieda Scholl, Secretary, Carlton Barker, Treasurer. The Board of Directors included Marjorie Simpson Bonnett, Reverend Francis Edie, Roger Dean, Alan Burstein, Esquire, Lou Bonnett, Russell Johnson, Larry Doering, Tom McCabe, Sr. Bill Brodock, Charles Grove, Don Burnap, and Bill Tidd.
The Board established a sanitary code that was eventually adopted by the Town of Webb Board. The code specified distances allowed between septic systems and the lake and other related rules. With the increase of membership from 150 the first year to 600 the next year enough money was raised to hire a full-time inspector who conducted dye tests of septic systems, issued violations and collected lake water samples for testing. The inspector worked closely with the Towns of Webb and Inlet Codes Enforcement Officers.
Numerous violations of the new code were discovered by dye testing residents’ septic systems. Most homeowners were not aware that they were in violation. As they were notified of defects in their system, the majority of homeowners quickly corrected the problem. Within two years the water quality had improved from a coliform count of 40,000 per 100 ml to well under 2400 per 100 ml which is the state maximum allowed for public swimming. Today, coliform counts now average less than 3 per 100 ml.
The FCLA played a major role in convincing the Town of Webb to discontinue use of the carcinogenic spray Dibrom 14 to eradicate black flies. The Town now uses BTI, a safe and effective larvicide. The organization led several lake and property owner groups to convince municipal officers to amend the zoning ordinance to severely limit contractual access on water front properties. The FCLA was one of the first lake associations (as is still today) in NY State to participate in their Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) sponsored by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Lake water testing has included not only coliform and pH but tests for heavy metals and testing for aquatic invasive species. The FCLA has channeled their efforts to prevent Eurasian Milfoil from spreading further into the Fulton Chain. Milfoil now grows in Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Lake. A labor-intensive program of hand harvesting the milfoil has been a major commitment of the Association with time and money generously donated resources from the community to assist scuba divers in their pursuit of removing the weeds. These invasive plants can cause great damage to aquatic plants and fish habitants as well as other recreational activities enjoyed on our lakes.
Photos courtesy Carolyn Belknap
Members’ annual dues and donations are the only source of revenue for FCLA. Our budget covers lake water tests, supplies to conduct these tests, newsletter, website, community and educational outreach, watershed stewardship programs, boating safely initiative and clerical costs. The FCLA recognizes a Town of Webb High School student who exhibits keen interest in preserving the environment with a scholarship. The membership is over 600 strong, with a goal to include all people who enjoy, use and benefit from our lakes pure waters.
Help us continue protecting The Fulton Chain of Lakes by
becoming a member! To become a member and/or make a donation, please go to our membership page.