Editor’s Note: Bill Harman has led SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station on Otsego Lake since its founding.
Historically, as in all our inland lakes after the original European settlement, rowboats, canoes, and sailboats capable of carrying a few passengers dominated Otsego Lake.
Early on it provided a corridor between the waters of the Mohawk drainage and the Southern Atlantic states via the Susquehanna River and was of national importance. It was used for a diversity of commercial and military activities over that length of time.
The first dirt road was built up the east side of the lake by William Cooper in 1787. By 1818, sections of road had begun to be built along the west side of the lake between Cooperstown and Springfield, but there was no direct route until about 1917.
Those early roads did not provide access to hotels and residences along the lake since they were constructed along the ridgetops to avoid the necessity of building bridges over the many streams running to the lake.
During that period, the lake itself served for commercial as well as recreational transportation. The first steamboat was launched in 1858. The last commercial steam vessel plied the lake in 1933.
During the height of those activities in 1894, 10 steam-powered vessels were active on the lake. At least two, the “Natty Bumppo” and the “Cyclone,” could carry more than 300 passengers.
BOAT PARADE – 3 p.m. Get out for the annual ‘We Love Our Lake’ decorated boat parade. This years theme ‘Lets Celebrate – It’s The 4th Of July.’ All boats welcome from human powered to motor powered and all in between. Participants are reminded to practice social distancing. Parade assembles at 3 Mile Point and proceeds on West Side of the Lake to Lakefront Park, Cooperstown. 518-542-6630 or visit otsegolakeassociation.org for info.
With so many areas of American life seemingly spinning out of control, there’s a contrary example in the Otsego Lake Association (OLA).
Its “100-percent volunteers,” according to Jim Howarth, co-president with David Sanford, are focused on a common mission: “Protecting the health, beauty and wellbeing” of the lake.
Listening to them, it’s clear: Local volunteers, working together, can get a lot done.
There are larger non-profit, governmental and educational entities focused on the wellbeing of James Fenimore Cooper’s Glimmerglass, a national environmental icon – the OCCA, Otsego 2000, SUNY Oneonta’s Biological Field Station (BFS), the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, to name only a few – but the nimble OLA is a PT boat amid, if not aircraft carriers, the mid-size cruisers.
In advance of its annual meeting – this Saturday, Aug. 10, at Cooperstown’s Fairy Spring Park on East Lake Road; coffee and donuts at 8:30 a.m., with the meeting at 9-11 a.m., including conferring the annual Lake Citizen Award – Howarth and Sanford stopped by the other day to help raise the visibility of a story of accomplishment.
Like many OLA members, the two motivations came out of many happy personal experiences. Sanford recalls when commercial fishing was still allowed on the lake, and a daily staple at the Cooperstown Diner was Otsego Bass caught that morning. A student at SUNY Oneonta in the 1970s, Howarth remembers renting a motorbike from Thayer’s at $5 a day to take his future bride Susan onto the lake. Or a canoe ride, $2 a day.
FAMILY FARM DAY – 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Visit local farms in Otsego and Schoharie counties and bring home a cooler of farm fresh goods. Call (518) 234-4303, ext. 119 or visit FamilyFarmDay.org
CLOSING CONCERT – 8 p.m. End the season with an exploration of feminine sovereignty through dance, song, and text by Laura Carelss, dancer, choreographer, and actress, in the World Premier of “She Wolves.” Tickets, $15 adults, $12 youth, seniors, and veterans. The Church, at the decommissioned Baptist Church, 2381 St. Hwy. 205, Mount Vision. www.upsi-ny.com/upcoming-events-news/