Auburn Citizen, link to original post
The Finger Lakes Land Trust launched an effort to create a greenbelt of undeveloped lands that will ultimately extend around the southern half of Skaneateles Lake, ensuring the integrity of the area’s scenic landscapes and also helping to maintain Skaneateles’ and the city of Syracuse’s drinking water supply.
The project was launched with the recent donation of a conservation easement on 31 acres of mature woodland overlooking the lake by landowners John and Robin Hinchcliff. The Land Trust has also successfully negotiated a contract to purchase 200 adjacent acres from Bill and Leonard Burns. Both properties are located in the town of Spafford.
The Hinchcliff conservation easement ensures that a steep, forested hillside overlooking Skaneateles Lake will remain undeveloped. The property includes frontage on Randall Gulf Creek – a significant tributary to the Lake. Conservation easements are legal agreements that limit future development while allowing land to remain in private ownership, and on the tax rolls.
“This land has been returning to woodlands for almost a century,” says easement donor John Hinchcliff. “It’s been untouched for my entire lifetime, and much further back. He adds that “we admire the Land Trust’s long-range vision to build an emerald necklace around the lake. It would be a spectacular recreational resource and a great way to protect the area’s pristine woodlands and waters.”
The proposed acquisition from the Burns family consists of hillside forests and meadows that extend for more than a mile, overlooking Skaneateles Lake’s eastern
shore. The property features scenic views of the Lake and includes several rugged gorges, and half of Randall’s Gulf – a large ravine that extends to the lakeshore. The acquisition also includes a 4,000 foot corridor that links the larger parcel to the nearby Ripley Hill Nature Preserve, which is owned by the Central New York Land Trust. The property is located near the Land Trust’s 130-acre High Vista Nature Preserve.
Once acquired, the Land Trust intends to develop a network of hiking trails on the land along with a parking area, scenic overlook, and on-site interpretation of the land’s natural and agricultural history. A $1 million fundraising goal has been set for the project to cover the cost of acquisition, as well as site improvements, and long-term management.
The Land Trust has completed five other projects within the proposed greenbelt, which extends from the mouth of Bear Swamp Creek on the west side of the lake to the Staghorn Cliffs on the east side. The area is widely recognized for its spectacular scenery and much of it is also recognized by the National Audubon Society as one of New York’s Important Bird Areas. In its relatively undeveloped state, the greenbelt also plays a vital role in helping to maintain water quality within
Skaneateles Lake. Recreational resources include the extensive multi-use trails for Bear Swamp State Forest, popular Carpenter’s Falls and undeveloped shoreline that is enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
“The steep slopes cradling the lake and Grout Brook are critically important to the lake’s ecosystem,” says retired SUNY-ESF lake scientist and Land Trust board member Bob Werner. “Add to that the idea of an emerald necklace wrapping around the south end and you have the beginnings of a vision for the future of this wonderful area.”
To hike, bike, or explore waterfalls mentioned here, pick up guidebooks from Footprint Press.