Bird Conservation Area Near Canandaigua Lake Opened to Public

Ithaca, NY – The Finger Lakes Land Trust formally dedicated its West River Preserve which features a scenic overlook with distant views of the Naples Valley and adjacent High Tor Wildlife Management Area. Interpretive signs at the overlook inform visitors about the site’s unique natural and cultural history.

The West River Preserve encompasses 65 acres of restored grassland bird habitat near the south end of Canandaigua Lake and immediately adjacent to extensive wetlands located on the state’s wildlife management area.  Both the preserve and the adjacent wildlife area are recognized by the National Audubon Society as one of New York State’s Important Bird Areas.

The preserve is also located adjacent to Clark’s Gully – regarded as the birthplace of the Seneca Nation.  These lands are recognized for their cultural significance and once hosted a Native American settlement.

Photo: FLLT

Photo: FLLT

The preserve was acquired by the Land Trust in June 2011 through a donation from Constellation Brands.  At the time, the property hosted a long-abandoned vineyard and had become overgrown by trees and shrubs.  With guidance from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and with financial support from the Raines family, native grassland habitat was restored to benefit declining bird species such as the Northern Harrier and the Bobolink.

The preserve’s scenic overlook is located next to the trailhead for Clark’s Gully, a popular hiking area that is located on the state’s adjacent wildlife management area.  Both sites are located at the intersection of Sunnyside Road and West Avenue in the town of Italy, Yates County.  Visitors can also enjoy birding and wildlife watching at a number of easily accessible locations within the wildlife area.

The West River Preserve is dedicated to conservationists Don and Skippy Raines.  Don Raines was a physician in the Rochester area as well as a lifelong conservationist and longtime resident of the Finger Lakes region.  He also served on the Land Trust’s Board of Directors before he passed away in February 2006.  His wife Skippy shares his passion for nature and remains active with the Land Trust as well as the local community.

“We’re grateful to both Constellation Brands and the Raines family for making this preserve possible,” says the Land Trust’s Executive Director Andrew Zepp.  “This is a very special place that is unique in our region.  We’re delighted to now make this site accessible to the public.”

Creating the West River Preserve marks the Land Trust’s12th land protection project completed in the vicinity of the High Tor Wildlife Management Area.  The Land Trust also partnered with Ontario County to establish Grimes Glen County Park, the Town of South Bristol to establish Carolabarb Park, and with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to secure the northern half of Conklin Gully and lands overlooking Canandaigua Lake on Bare Hill.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust protects over 17,000 acres of our region’s beloved forests, fields, wetlands, streams, and lakeshores. The Land Trust today owns and manages a network of 36 conservation areas that are open to the public and holds conservation easements on more than 100 properties that remain in private ownership.

The Land Trust focuses on protecting critical habitat and water resources, connecting conserved lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. We also hold programs to educate local governments, landowners, and the community about conservation.  The Land Trust works within the 12-county Finger Lakes Region—an area roughly the size of Vermont. Additional information on the Land Trust and the West River Preserve may be found at