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June 27, 2013

Deowongo Island now open to the public

Staff Report
Cooperstown Crier

---- — On Saturday, June 22, Otsego Land Trust the Canadarago Lake Improvement Association and members of the Mohawk Nation dedicated Deowongo Island to the community.

Saturday’s dedication, attended by more than 100 people who were ferried to the island by volunteer lake residents Bob Fagan and Dave Tillapaugh, marked the opening of the island to the public for use of its trails and enjoyment of its natural beauty. 

In 2012, OLT acquired Deowongo Island through a generous donation by the Schoenlein family, who had previously owned it, along with funding through grants and private contributions. According to a media release, OLT, with the assistance of CLIA and Canadarago Lake residents, conducted a major clean-up and cleared trails and the open area at the north end to make Deowongo Island safe and accessible. 

The dedication was opened by Mohawk Chief Tom Porter, who shared the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address. The Thanksgiving Address, Porter explained, asks people to have “respect for the land, the water and all living beings that share the earth.”   

Porter, the author of the book, “And Grandma Said: Iroquois Teachings as Passed Down Through the Oral Tradition,” often referenced his traditional upbringing by his grandmother, mother and other relatives to communicate a message about being grateful for the land and water that sustain all people.

Otsego Land Trust Executive Director Virginia Kennedy welcomed visitors to the dedication. “Otsego Land Trust’s mission, to protect the clean waters and healthy lands of this special region is in line with the Mohawk message of taking responsibility for our land and water now and for future generations” Kennedy said in the release. “OLT is grateful to play a role in making sure special places like Deowongo Island, and the beautiful Fetterley Forest on the shore looking down on the island, are cared for so all in the community can enjoy them.”

Ryan Fagan, board member of the CLIA, emphasized the importance of the partnership between OLT and the lake community for keeping the island clean and accessible. Fagan also highlighted the young people at the dedication.   

“I look at all these young kids in front of me,” Fagan said in the release, “and none of them are looking at their phones. They’re out here seeing this beautiful island and lake, and they’re understanding that to have this here to use and enjoy, you have to take care of them.”  

The dedication ended with words of David Arquette, from the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, and the Executive Director of the Hadenosaunee Environmental Task Force. Arquette highlighted his positive feelings upon “coming home to traditional Mohawk homelands” and connected caring for home with Otsego Land Trust’s focus on protecting the local lands where we live, work and play. Arquette closed the ceremony with a traditional Mohawk closing prayer given in the Mohawk language.   

Deowongo Island is one of six properties owned and stewarded by Otsego Land Trust that form a “blueway” extending from Candarago Lake to Oaks Creek to the Susquehanna. These lands, all open to the public, allow and encourage easy access for fishing, canoeing and kayaking, trail walking and enjoying nature, according to the release. 

In addition to the generosity of the Schoenlein Family, OLT’s acquisition of Deowongo Island was made possible by grants from the Land Trust Alliance, Chesapeake Conservancy, Upper Susquehanna Coalition, Royal Bank of Canada-Blue Water Project and the Canadarago Lake Improvement Association.   

For more information on the work of Otsego Land Trust, visit www.OtsegoLandTrust.org, call 547-2366 or email info@otsegolandtrust.org.