The founder of Lacawac Sanctuary, known around the world by the scientific community for its virtually pristine glacial lake, is dead. Louis Arthur Watres died January 10, 2014 at the age of 91.
He had a heart for the environment and early on recognized the value of the property his family owned on the west shore of Lake Wallenpaupack near Ledgedale. Surrounded by private communities and close by to the recreational pursuits on the lake was this area of woodlands with its rare lake of high quality water. In 1966 he and his mother Isabel founded the Lacawac Sanctuary and dedicated it to the cause of preservation, environmental education and scientific research. Today it covers 545 acres.
"He was truly an environmental visionary and all those familiar with his engaging personality, his environmental work and Lacawac will surely miss him," commented Steve Lawrence, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Lacawac.
Watres' legacy became recognized worldwide. The property, with its 1903 Adirondack-style lodge is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Natural Landmark. It is a field research station where cutting edge science is performed on climate change and water quality. Lawrence noted that Watres' legacy is continuing to be felt. The Sanctuary has become part of a consortium with member universities, namely Drexel and Miami (Ohio), as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences. Watres was present this past fall (Oct. 25) to turn the first shovel full of earth in a ceremony heralding a modern laboratory funded by the National Science Foundation.
This laboratory promises to help showcase the environmental cause of Lacawac to local school students and the general public, as well as attract scientists from around the globe. A research hub is being created at Lacawac for the Ecological Observatory Network, linking data gained at Lacawac with field stations around the planet.
"This basic concept is something that Arthur embraced years ago.
Watres' legacy is also well known to the public for its hiking trails, nature and music programs. A solid base of volunteers serve at the non-profit Lacawac Sanctuary from the community.
He was one to promote Lacawac in any way he could and would embrace visitors like old friends, showing them around and telling the story of Lacawac's history and significance.
His son, Chad Reed-Watres, was born in 1966, the year Arthur and Arthur's mother started Lacawac Sanctuary. Now living in Australiia, Chad is on the board at Lacawac. He related that his father had a degree from Yale in fine arts but had a keen interest in science.
Reading books on ecology in the 1950's, he had a growing sense that Lake Lacawac was a special place worth protection and study. He went to New York pursuing scientists in the field to come and take a look. With interest raised, in 1966 he first turned over 400 acres to the Nature Conservancy for a research station, having helped found the local chapter. Later, the site was transferred to an independent nonprofit organization that had been formed, by the name of Lacawac Sanctuary.
Page 2 of 3 - Watres served on the board for many years. He retained a small brick house on the property where he and his mother stayed. Isabel Watres died at the age of 103 in 2001.
The Sanctuary is run by a Board of Trustees and Board of Directors, with staff and volunteers. Public support, membership and donors are essential to maintaining its mission.
As was stated in his obituary, Watres spent the rest of his life sharing his passion for the natural world and interest in using science to understand and protect it. His body of work – including founding the NE Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy – has been recognized by numerous national awards, Including the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership award and the Hornaday Gold Medal, the nation's oldest conservation award, presented by the Boys Scouts of America.
His family's heritage in the area runs deep. He was named for his grandfather, Col. Louis Arthur Watres, who played a vital role in developing the Wallenpaupack river valley for hydroelectric generation. Starting in 1910, Col. Watres and his partners began buying land in the river valley for the new venture. Eventually, Pennsylvania Power & Light Company (forerunner of PPL Corporation) purchased the company Col. Watres and his business partners had created, which led to completion of the lake and power plant in 1926. Col. Watres retained the parcel that became his family's estate.
For more information on Lacawac Sanctuary, visit www.lacawac.org or call 570-689-9494.
Louis Arthur Watres
Louis Arthur Watres, known as Arthur to most people, died January 10, 2014 from complications of pneumonia in Paoli Hospital, Paoli, PA. He was 91.
Arthur was a pioneering environmentalist who gave the remaining assets of a once-influential family (his grandfather was a successful Scranton businessman and Lt Governor of Pennsylvania, and his uncle a US Congressman) to the cause of preservation, education and research when he and his mother founded the Lacawac Sanctuary in Lake Ariel, PA, in 1966. Arthur worked the rest of his life to assure the ongoing mission of Lacawac - a work that remains in progress.
Born in 1922 in Bermuda to adventurous parents Reyburn and Isabel Watres, he grew up on the move, living in various locations and on yachts of his father's making. In all he attended more than 30 primary schools before enrolling in Phillips Exeter Academy. He studied fine art at Yale, though his university years were interrupted by his service as a Japanese interpreter for the US Navy during WWII. He was graduated in 1947 as part of the class of 1945W.
Following his father's death and a short stint as a securities trader, Arthur and his mother moved to the family's then-dilapidated country manor at Lake Lacawac in the Pocono Mountains. They spent many years restoring the buildings and trying to eke out a living operating a sawmill, a fish hatchery, and earth moving business. He resorted to textbook editing.
Page 3 of 3 - A spirit of adventure - and long winters at Lacawac - led Arthur and his mother to explore the South Pacific in colder months. They booked themselves on a freighter to French Polynesia, and caught copra schooners under sail to various island groups. In 1949 they were passengers on the first commercial flight from Tahiti to the US.
An accomplished artist, he painted and sculpted what he saw, leaving a legacy of mid-century water colors of the Pacific and other island adventures in the Caribbean.
In the 1950s, Arthur began to read early environmental treatises about the limitations of the Earth's resources. Determined to make a difference, he visited scientists at the Museum of Natural History in New York, which led to his acquaintance with a young Dr Ruth Patrick, who became one of the world's pre-eminent limnologists. It was her first visit to Lacawac that set the seeds of the Watres gift of the estate, which surrounds what Patrick called "the southernmost unpolluted glacial lake in the US."
Arthur spent the rest of his life sharing his passion for the natural world and interest in using science to understand and protect it. His body of work - including founding the NE Pennsylvania Chapter of the Nature Conservancy - has been recognized by numerous national awards, Including the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership award and the Hornaday Gold Medal, the nation's oldest conservation award, presented by the Boys Scouts of America.
He is survived by his son, Chad Reed-Watres, niece, Elizabeth Noble, grandchildren Sage and Olin Reed-Watres, and grand niece Megan Noble.
At his request there will be no funeral or service. Those wishing to remember Arthur are invited to send donations to Lacawac Sanctuary, 94 Sanctuary Road, Lake Ariel, PA 18436.