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by David Hill, Ithaca Journal, click here for original post & VIDEOS of building the trail as well as the completed trail

NEW Emerald Necklace boardwalk in Dresden NY.

NEW Emerald Necklace boardwalk in Dresden NY.

They call it the Emerald Necklace, a belt of green connecting 50,000 acres of public and preserved land in an arc around Ithaca, from the Finger Lakes National Forest near Trumansburg in the west to near the Dryden village limits in the east.

And on Friday, the Finger Lakes Land Trust held a grand opening for the first link of the dreamed-of greenbelt. The Ithaca-based nonprofit bought 169 acres along Irish Settlement Road, between Hammond Hill State Forest to the north and its own Roy H. Park Preserve to the south, in November 2010. The site also abuts the Cornell Plantations’ Slaterville 600 natural area. Together, the lands comprise 7,500 acres of publicly accessible and preserved wooded and open space.

There are bigger parts, such as the Connecticut Hill State Wildlife Management area in Newfield. But the site celebrated Friday is the first link the Land Trust has built. It was able to act quickly when the property came on the market because of donations from an array of individuals, businesses and organizations, Executive Director Andrew Zepp said at an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Take A Hike - Finger Lakes

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes

Also speaking: Ken Lynch, regional director of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who said the land is an example of the kind of links the state is beginning to aim for; Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Martha Robertson, D-Dryden, whom Zepp thanked as an individual conservationist and in her role with the county, which provided grants through its open-space and tourism-promotion programs; and Mary Ann Sumner, supervisor of the Town of Dryden.

Robertson said such lands draw both tourists and permanent residents. “It’s so critical to everything about why we live here, why we choose this place,” Robertson said. “This is the legacy that you all have created today that generations from now will enjoy.”

This past winter, the Land Trust built a hiking trail linked to the 20-mile multi-use trail network in Hammond Hill.

The Land Trust also acquired land across Irish Settlement Road from the Park Preserve that it plans to deed to the state as an expansion of Yellow Barn State Forest, Zepp said, and it may one day be possible to hike across all of them into a preserve along Ellis Hollow Creek Road.

Linking preserves on the whole arc may prove a challenge, as valley development blocks the most direct connections, but the Land Trust will persevere, Zepp said. “That’s the scope of this project,” he said. “We’re in it for the long haul. This is just one of the links in the Emerald Necklace.”

Zepp also announced memorials at the site. The trail and boardwalk will be named “Howard’s Walk” after Howard Hartnett, an active conservationist who recently died. An educational kiosk at the entrance will be named in honor of Ed Thompson, an Ithaca native whose siblings James, Bill, Mark and Ellen Fowler contributed in his honor. The overlook will be named in honor of Matthew Ruppert, whose family has supported the Land Trust.

To hike other local trails, pick up a copy of the guidebook “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”

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Click here to see:   Ithaca, New York’s Beautiful Gorges (PHOTOS)

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes

Gorgeous of course – especially in fall. Go see for yourself using the guidebooks Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region and 200 Waterfalls in Central & Western New York.

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By Connie Mertz For The Daily Item, link to original post

One of the most exceptional places to visit, particularly during October, when the trees are ablaze with color, is Sapsucker Woods. Located within a 10-minute drive of Ithaca, N.Y., it is a Mecca for bird enthusiasts. Each year, 55,000 visitors journey to this facility.

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes

Sapsucker Woods is also home to Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. “The Cornell Lab is a nonprofit, member-supported organization whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education and citizen science focused on birds,” commented Miyoko Chu, Director of Communications.

The sanctuary itself consists of 226 acres including more than four miles of wood-chipped trails plus a 10-acre pond. It is easy walking, family-friendly and, at the height of autumn, it is very scenic. Free guided bird walks are offered on weekends during the remaining months of 2009. Participants only need to meet at the entrance of the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity. (A trail map and directions can be found in “Take A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”)

“You can hear the drum of a Pileated woodpecker, watch an osprey perched on a tree snag and stroll in a mature forest where the voices of a hundred species of birds animate your walk,” said public outreach associate, Charles Eldermire.

“Sapsucker Woods is a mosaic of wetlands and forest that attracts a diverse assemblage of birds and other animals. As trees die, they are left standing, which creates habitat valuable for cavity-nesting birds like woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches,” Eldermire adds.

This is only a taste of what awaits the traveler. “In the observatory, visitors may relax on one of the many chairs arrayed in front of the 30-foot wall of windows to look out over the pond, watch avian visitors to the Treman Bird Feeding Garden and use spotting scopes set up nearby,” staff writer Pat Leonard said.

Even the bird song heard by observers is live because of outdoor microphones strategically placed.

Visitors browse at the vast array of bird exhibits. One such encased display shows the hummingbirds of the world. “Wildlife artwork adorns the walls. A reconstructed study features bird murals by renown painter Louis Agassiz Fuertes.,” Leonard said.

Founded in 1954, the location of Sapsucker Woods was well known to researchers as well as the general public. “The birds and plants of this hilltop woodlot near the lake seemed to resemble the forests of the Adirondacks much more than other woodlots near Cornell…With the help of donors and local landowners, this regionally-important habitat was formally conserved as the Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary, becoming home to the then ‘fledgling’ Cornell Lab of Ornithology,” Eldermire said.

Today, Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology, is a world leader in bird research and conservation. More than 250 scientists, including students and staff, strive to make important discoveries in bird conservation. “In the field and in the laboratory, scientists track and analyze bird diseases,” Chu explained. “Conservation scientists produce land managers’ guides aimed at conserving dwindling populations of scarlet tanagers, wood thrushes and other forest birds,” Leonard noted.

Researchers are also working with organizations and government agencies to learn how the use of wind power is impacting birds and bats. “Researchers sequence DNA from living birds or specimens to discover fascinating information about the relationships among species and their lifestyles,” Leonard continued.

The ongoing research and scientific studies is not limited to professionals either. “More than 100,000 people participate in the Cornell lab’s citizen-science projects. These projects are enjoyable for participants and they help collect widespread information that scientists need to understand the movement, distribution and changes in bird numbers through time,” Chu said.

Another citizen-based project is called Project FeederWatch. This simply asks the public to count birds at their backyard feeders from November to April. “This helps scientists track changes in bird numbers and movements from year to year,” Leonard said. “Since 1987, more than 40,000 people from the United States and Canada have taken part in the project.”

Another popular program is eBird, an online program that participants can not only keep track of their own bird lists, but can access information from others. “eBird takes in an average of one million bird observations per month,” Leonard emphasized.

Another fascinating statistic is that 500,000 visitors a month check out the “All About Birds” Web site.

The research and citizen-based projects are practically endless. And to think, this all started with a little parcel of ground from donors and local landowners more than 50 years ago.

For information on Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology and how you can get involved, visit http://www.birds.cornell.edu/

For the Great Backyard Bird Count, Feb. 12-15, 2010 www.birdcount.org

To learn about urban birds: www.celebrateurbanbirds.org

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Here’s a wonderful pictorial tour of some Ithaca area waterfalls.

Anyone who wants to go explore these and other Ithaca area waterfalls would do well to pick up a copy of “200 Waterfalls in Central & Western New York – A Finders. Guide.” It’s loaded with maps & directions to lots of gorgeous waterfalls.

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Beginner Backpacking on The Cheap By Carey Kish

Another option for finding less expensive backpacking gear is to visit the used gear / consignment shop called Old Goat Gear Exchange in Ithaca NY.

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byDave Henderson, Ithaca journal, link to original post

According to the Center for Disease Control, New York has long been the national capital of Lyme disease. But for many years the only cases diagnosed locally came when a pet was infected elsewhere and traveled here.

Judging by the reaction I received from recently published warnings of above-average infestations of disease-bearing ticks this year, most folks still think Lyme disease is not a local problem. They are definitely mistaken.

There have been, over the last five years or so, an increasing number of cases where Lyme disease was diagnosed locally and determined to have been contacted locally. Yup, right here in River (or Lake) City.

An informal group of local veterinarians have been tracking the disease and warning patients and anyone else who’ll listen. The data is not formally quantified because there is currently no full-proof diagnostic tool for Lyme and not everyone locally tests regularly for it, anyhow.

But the aforementioned group of concerned doctors does test regularly. Doctor William Wilhelm, who lives in Tioga County and runs the Endicott Animal Hospital in Broome County, says the group has found alarming numbers of positive cases – as high as 10 percent of dogs tested proved to be positive in some offices.

The word should be out. This is the prime season for tick infestation and its subsequent infections. Check yourself and your pets and have your vet check them regularly.

Ticks are most active at this time of year because they are in their nymph stage and their small size allows them to hook on and feed unnoticed for a longer period of time.

The Tick-Borne Disease Alliance suggests wearing a hat, long sleeves and avoiding shorts and tucking shirt tails into pants and pant legs into boots when spending time outdoors to reduce the amount of skin exposed to ticks. Ticks are easier to spot on light-colored clothing.

It also suggests treating clothing with Permethrin, an insecticide that repels and kills ticks. An EPA-approved insect repellent should be applied to exposed skin, and stay in the center of woodland trails while avoiding deer paths altogether.

Again, check for ticks on you and/or your pets as soon as you get indoors and don’t delay showering. Bathing as soon as possible will help remove unattached ticks.

Remove your clothes and put them in the dryer at high heat for about 30 minutes to kill any ticks.

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By Michael Nocella | Ithaca.com / link to original post

Take Your Bike – Finger Lakes

In 2001 Rick Manning had a vision: a trail that would connect all the main attractions along the shore of Cayuga Lake. Now, almost eleven years later, his vision is close to fruition. If all goes according to plan, all six miles of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail will be completed and open to the public by this time next year.

“It just seemed like a natural fit to me,” said Manning. His own consulting firm has taken the initiative for planning the trail. “A lot of communities like Ithaca do trails, but it wasn’t happening here for whatever reason. It seemed like a feasible project. I couldn’t think of a good reason why it wouldn’t be doable.”

He did, however, know what kind of things just might stand in the way of such a project from taking off. “Anytime you’re talking building a trail, two things come into play,” he said. “Funding and right of way. Long linear projects such as this touch or are adjacent to properties that usually step on some toes. There’s always some land owners who feel violated.”

The first obstacle, funding, has been largely taken care of, thanks to the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce. With their support and guidance, sufficient funds for the project have been raised one way or another, whether they came by state or federal means. “We knew we wanted to be part of this from the moment Rick brought it to us,” said Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce president Jean McPheeters. “We always had visitors come here who wanted to know the best way to walk around the lake,” she said, “and we really didn’t have an answer for them. Now, we do.”

Although McPheeters and the chamber of commerce were behind Manning and his vision, finding financial support was still an adventure. Originally thought to be a five-year project, difficulties along the way have more than doubled that timeframe. “Money has really been the main reason it’s taken so long to get where we are,” said McPheeters. “It’s one of those vicious cycles were, the longer it takes, the more expensive things get, and when things get more expensive, the longer it takes to find money for them.”

When asked what kind of emotions will come into play when this winding route to the finish line is completed, McPheeters smiled. “I’ll be so excited to see this completed,” she said. “It will be so satisfying to go to Cass Park, go to Stewart Park, and other stops along the way and see people using it in its entirety. Complete joy is probably the best way to describe it.”

Unfortunately, it will still be a little while before McPheeters can experience her day in the sun. Although money has been the biggest reason for the length of the project, the “right of way” obstacle has come into play just as Manning suspected it would.

The trail project was organized in three phases. The first phase was centered on a two-mile trail loop around Cass Park and was completed in 2003. Trail furnishings and trail features, including the trailhead, the inlet overlook and the Miller Grove, were funded with private contributions that allowed for the development of many distinctive spaces and amenities along the trail.

Phase 3, which includes a trail through Stewart Park all the way to the Ithaca Farmers Market, was recently finished and has already seen its fair share of users. “When the trail is fully completed, it’s impact is going to be significant,” said Fernando de Aragón, director of the Ithaca-Tompkins County Transportation Council. “We might not see a decrease in peak hour traffic but the flow of other traffic– recreational trips – will see a change. The ability to get to the places the waterfront trail connects by a nice, safe path is something the city has always needed. It will add a whole new dimension to Ithaca.”

That dimension, however, won’t come into the picture until the last and central portion of the trail – phase 2 – is completed. This last piece of the waterfront trail puzzle will connect the Cass Park Trail (Phase 1) to Inlet Island, Ithaca’s West End, Cornell and Ithaca College boathouses, and the farmers market. It will include construction of a trail bridge, two trailheads, trail furnishings, amenities, interpretive signage, and numerous other trail features. It is, however, the only phase of the trail that does not sit on city property. The fact that the boathouses of both Cornell University and Ithaca College are part of Phase 2 is making for complicating trail making. “It required a lot of patience, a lot of listening,” said McPheeters.

But they were patient. And they did listen. So now what? Now, it starts to get fun.

One of the most exciting aspects for Manning when designing the logistics of the trail was connecting all of the main attractions along the waterfront like they have never been before. From Cass Park, to Ithaca Children’s Garden, to the Ithaca Farmers Market, all the way to Stewart Park  – not mention stops in between –Manning knew there was immense potential for Ithaca residents and visitors to experience the waterfront in a connected way through the trail.

To make things even more appealing, some of these attractions are doing their own facelifts in an effort to make the waterfront trail worth the walk. Stewart Park is hoping for more than a facelift, however. If Scott Wiggins has anything to say about it, the historic site will get a complete makeover.

Wiggins, who is the managing director at La Tourelle Resort, also leads the not-for-profit group Friends of Stewart Park, who are dedicated to the rejuvenation and rehabilitation of the park. The Cayuga Waterfront Trail Initiative (CWTI) initiated a study of the state and needs of Stewart Park in 2008 funded by a grant from the Strategic Tourism Planning Board. This resulted in the 2009 Stewart Park Rehabilitation Action Plan (SPRAP). The plan details and prioritizes park enhancement projects and informs the plans to be carried out by the Friends of Stewart Park. “For those who can remember it, Stewart Park use to be one of Ithaca’s most beloved locations,” Wiggins said. “We want to bring it back to those glory days. While we might not be allowed to swim at Stewart Park anytime soon, there’s no reason the rest of its magic can’t be brought back.”

Projects for Stewart Park include renovations of the Cascadilla Boathouse and the installation of a $250,000 to $400,000 playground.

There is also a movement called Ithaca Motion Picture Project, which is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is the rehabilitation of one of the park pavilions. In the early 20th century it was the Wharton Studio building, where over 100 silent films were directed and produced by filmmaking brothers Theodore and Leopold Wharton. These, along with other fixtures in the park, will not only make the park a great place for new faces, but also a nostalgic place for older ones.

It is Wiggins’s hope that all of these renovations will be completed in time for the park’s 100th anniversary, on July 4, 2021. “It would be incredible if we can bring back Stewart Park to its original glory for its centennial celebration, wouldn’t it?” he said. “It is tremendous the amount of excitement and connectivity the waterfront trail is bringing to the table and we know Stewart Park will be a huge part of that.”

As Wiggins strives to make Stewart Park the iconic public facade it once was, Erin Marteal and the Ithaca Children’s Garden are making there own renovations in an effort to give Ithaca’s youth intriguing outdoor recreational options. By renovating their edible garden and labyrinth, and adding a brand new hands-on “Anarchy Zone,” which will let kids run wild with imagination, Marteal is hoping any youngster passing through the garden on the Cayuga Waterfront Trail stop by and stay for a while. “We are building an area that is simply an awesome place for kids to hang out and play,” she said. “It’s safe, fun and is surprisingly one of the best spots to do some birding on the trail.”

Marteal can expect plenty of visits. Even with one-third of the trail not available to the public, one aspect of Manning’s original vision is already coming into focus: an increase of Ithaca pedestrians, bikers and joggers. “The hope is that using the trail to get from one destination to another will be a lot more fun and healthy than sitting in traffic,” Manning said. “It’s a great place to walk and enjoy active living. I think the spirit of Ithacans really caters to that type of lifestyle, they’ve just been lacking the resources to do so.”

Not anymore.

The Cayuga Waterfront Trail is mapped & described in the guidebook “Take Your Bike – Family Rides in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”

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By Rob Montana | Ithaca.com, link to original post

There’s something about taking a walk in the woods – something that brings out a peaceful feeling in a person.

Maybe it’s the elimination of the bustle of everyday life. Maybe it’s the beautiful views of vegetation and wildlife. Maybe it’s the cathedral-like canopy of the treetops towering above one’s head.

For whatever reasons the woods bring calmness, they can all be found at the Stevenson Forest Preserve.

Located just outside Ithaca in Enfield, this Finger Lakes Land Trust’s protected land encompasses 83 acres, featuring a trail slightly more than a mile long. The pathways to chose from include a section of the Finger Lakes Trail and the Stevenson Trail.

Take A Hike – Finger Lakes

Getting to the preserve is an easy task, and there’s a clearly designated parking area on Trumbull Corners Road. A sign for Stevenson Forest Preserve greets hikers; off to the right is a marker denoting the presence of the Finger Lakes Trail as well. (The full trail runs 558 miles from Allegany State Park to the Long Path in Catskill Forest Preserve.)

Following that path takes one along a stream on the left, winding the way alongside a hilly incline to the right. A kiosk with a logbook and information about the Finger Lakes trail, including maps and tips, sits a short way into the woods.

The trail continues until it abruptly butts up against posted private property. A large log provides ample sitting room with a look at a rocky section of the stream, as well as a manmade grouping of large rocks.

The steepest section of the trail commences here, as it takes a 90-degree turn to the right, leading straight up the hill. This is where the path becomes less dirt covered, turning into a carpet of needles and leaves, unspoiled from the winter season because of the dense umbrella of leaves in the tall trees populating this section of the preserve.

At the top of the climb, the trail (it’s the Finger Lakes Trail at this point) – which is clearly marked with white blazes on tree trunks – turns to the right again. A short distance ahead the appearance of a blue blaze on a tree trunk – pointing to the left – brings you to the start of the Stevenson Trail. (The Finger Lakes Trail continues straight ahead through more of the woods.)

The suggestion here would be to take the Stevenson Trail, if only for what is found at the end of the path.

Taking the blue route, the trail becomes almost moguled and covered with tree roots jutting out, then evens out into a nice pathway again as one walks through the trees, these are much smaller and clearly less mature than the titans encountered during the first part of the hike.

The sunlight that is quite muted, save for glimpses of sky, during the Finger Lakes Trail section, grows brighter as the trail nears the edge of the woods. Leaving the woods, tall grasses line the path for a short distance, and then the path enters a small wooded section.

Almost as quickly, the wooded area ends and a breathtaking view appears, with tall grass stretching for miles, distant communities visible on the far-off hills. It’s well worth the hike to see the sight, and a bench – marked in loving memory for Martha W. Baldwin (1924-2006) and Peter E. Costich (1925-2005), with the logo of Troop 4 Eagle from Ithaca and the Finger Lakes Land Trust – offers a nice, high-backed place to sit.

According to the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the original 25 acres of the preserve were owned by the Stevenson family of Enfield dating back to just after the Revolutionary War. Thirty-four years ago, the land was inherited by Elizabeth Stevenson Bennett, who later opted to donate it to the Finger Lakes Land Trust after being approached by Michael DeMunn, a consulting forester for the Finger Lakes Land Trust at the time, and FLLT volunteer Betsy Darlington, who currently serves as the organization’s stewardship advisor.

The original 25 acres became the first section of the preserve in 1995; later additions of property in 1998 and 1999 increased the acreage to 83 acres. Those additions came thanks to Percy Browning, who bought land to donate it and added 18 acres to the total, and anonymous grant that paved the way for the acquisition of 40 more acres.

Among the vegetation visible in the preserve, according to the FLLT, are Indian cucumber-root, Jack-in-the-pulpit, starflower and horse balm. There also are several ponds in the preserve; the migration of spotted salamanders can be seen in early spring and wood frogs also may be spotted breeding in the ponds.

For more information about the Stevenson Forest Preserve, visit the Finger Lakes Land Trust website at fllt.org and look under the Protected Lands section.

If you go …
Acres: 83
Trail distance: Approximately 1 mile

Directions from Ithaca: Take Route 13 South to Route 327 North. Follow Route 327 N, and then take a left on Trumbull Corners Road. The parking area for the Stevenson Forest Preserve is about a half mile down the road on the right.

For many places to hike in the Ithaca NY area, pick up a copy of the guidebookTake A Hike – Family Walks in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.

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A significant reroute on the Finger Lakes Trail map M17 south of Ithaca has replaced 2.5 miles of road walk with 2.6 miles of scenic trail. From west to east at mileage 4.7 the former road walk along Bruce Hill Rd., Gunderman Rd., and Comfort Rd. has been replaced by the following:

4.7 Turn left (east) uphill on Bruce Hill Road (1340′). In 150′ turn right (south) into woods passing a trail register.
5.1 Cross gully and enter field; follow its north side to reenter woods in 800′.
5.8 Turn right into steep gully. Ascend and follow 1340′ contour.
6.8 Cross abandoned road, soon crossing another steep gully.
7.3 Reach Comfort Road (1580′, shoulder parking). Turn right (south) along road.

Below is a snippet of the updated map in this region:

source: Joe Dabes via the FLTC E-list

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river otter

A river otter killed by a vehicle near Ithaca last month had an imbedded microchip that identified the animal as being released near Bear Swamp in October 2000. The animal was 12 years old, about four years past the average lifespan for river otters.

From 1995 to 2001, wild river otters were live-trapped, implanted with a tracking microchip and released in western and central portions of the state where populations were thought to be extinct.

This was done as a cooperative effort by many partners, collectively called the River Otter Project. Based on the longevity of the animal and other observation reports from the public, one must consider the River Otter Project a success.

A more formal evaluation is planned, but the DEC encourages everyone to continue reporting observations and submitting photos of wild river otters to fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us. You can learn more about river otters and the ROP on DEC’s River Otter web page. Volunteers observe as an otter is released back into the wild with its newly implanted tracking microchip.

source: Ithaca Journal

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