Wednesday, May 28, 2008

OWLA is 20 years old! (Part 2)

Last time, I mentioned some of the great things that have happened during our groups first 20 years. It started me thinking about what the next 20 years could bring........... maybe I'll make that a "Part 3".

As promised, I said I would share some details on the founding of OWLA back in 1988. I believe the first orginizational meetings started in late 1987, and early 1988. By summer the paperwork had been filed to Incorporate the group and make its by-laws official. The founding group of directors was: Margaret Kilmer, Michael Janas, Irene Main, Jeanette Curin, Louis Vergamini, Dr. Joe Wasileski, Alan Kozlowski, George Spears, Ann Robson, Paul Lattimore Jr., Gordon Reed Jr., and Charles Greene. You might recognize that many of those people are still active in OWLA today.

In the sumer of 1988 OWLA's first regular board of directors meetings began and along with regular membership meetings. Standing committees were formed and the group began to blossom. That is where my involvement began. I had been attending many of the early meetings and got "hooked" by Gordon Reed Jr. to lead the Environmental Committee. I reluctantly accepted and we started to form some solid objectives and plans for the committee. A few months later I was asked to sit on the board and at the end of Paul Lattimore Jr's tenure as President in 1996, I was elected as the next President. I am still greatful to Gordon for pulling me into action with OWLA. It has been a great way to give back to our community and it's something I have really enjoyed. I have also met some really great people and developed some life long friendships.

Well...........back to the story, I think the first real big issue facing OWLA was the impending plan to build a prison in Moravia and the concern of the effect the prison's sewage would have on an outdated sewage treatment plant(STP). The Moravia STP was already known to have raw sewage overflows several times per year. OWLA launched a campaign to get not only a state-of-the-art STP but also a holding tank at the prison to balance sewage releases to the STP over a 24 hour period. OWLA had to threaten a lawsuit, but it brought the Corrections Commisioner to Auburn to negotiate and then announce a cooperative agreement. OWLA's membership roster swelled to over a thousand members during this period. Things were really happening, and OWLA won its first big battle!

Paul Lattimore remained President until the summer of 1996. Paul stepped down leaving behind a strong legacy of public service and conservation. The OWLA Board of Directors named Paul the first Honorary Lifetime member in August 1996. Paul is still active with the group today. Tony Hart was elected as the next President that fall and continued on for another 6 years until he stepped down in June of 2002. Al Kozlowski was Tony's succesor and served into the spring of this year. He has recently decided to step down and the election of his replacement comes next month. Al had the original idea, as well as being the champion for finding the funding and helping with the hiring of our full-time Watershed Inspector position.

Another key member was our long-time secretary Margaret Kilmer who was not only our secretary for almost 14 years, but was also a strong defender of the often neglected South East on Owasco shoreline. She had spent summers at her family's lake cottage since she was a little girl. Margaret has many, many stories of the "good old" Owasco Lake and Inlet when she was growing up. Margaret was also the second OWLA member to be given an Honorary Lifetime Membership by the Board in June of 2002.

Our members have also been involved in many groups that parallel OWLA's mission. Many of our Board members have also sat on the Cayuga County Water Quality Managment Agency, The Cayuga County Environmental Managment Council, and the Board for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County.

There are many others that have been actively involved in our success over the years. I wish I had time to list them all. Maybe we can tell more stories about them in another posting later this year.

I would like to again thank that core group that stepped up and volunteered 20 years ago to get this organization going. Its been quite a trip! Thanks to all who have volunteered and/or financially supported us over the years.

If you have not been involved up to now, please feel free to join us at one of our upcoming meetings. We need your help, now more than ever!