Patience and persistence paid off recently when the Land Trust signed a deed conveying the northern half of Conklin Gully to New York State as an addition to the adjacent High Tor Wildlife Management Area.
This transfer wrapped up a seven-year effort that began when the Land Trust learned 71 acres––including this portion of the gorge––were listed for sale. At the time, the property’s owners were considering an offer from potential buyers who intended to subdivide this pristine property.
Conklin Gully is known to many residents of the western Finger Lakes as one of the region’s premiere gorge walks––a perfect hike on a hot, summer day when you don’t mind getting your feet wet. The gorge is impressive, flanked by towering bluffs of shale and mature hardwood, hemlock, and pine forest. A spur trail connects the gully to the Bristol Hills Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail, allowing hikers to extend their visit and further explore several thousand acres of adjacent public land.
When the property first came on the market, representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation expressed interest in acquiring the land but funding was not available. Thanks to a generous bequest from the late Albert B. Craig, Jr. of the Rochester area, the Land Trust was able to move quickly to negotiate the purchase.
Since the property was acquired by the Land Trust in April 2009, not much has changed out at Conklin Gully. Hikers continue to enjoy the area and wildlife, including ravens and black bears, continue to wander through this wild corner of our region.
Fortunately, state funding for conservation has been increasing recently and public funds were made available to purchase the property from the Land Trust. Proceeds from the sale will be rolled over into the Land Trust’s Forever Fund, a special land protection account that allows the organization to move quickly to acquire at-risk properties when they appear on the market.
In fact, presently, the Land Trust is negotiating the acquisition of another nearby stretch of forest with the goal of also adding it to High Tor Wildlife Area. The organization has already completed one similar transaction along West River and it holds another parcel on State Route 245 awaiting imminent transfer to the state.
In addition to these cooperative acquisitions with the state, the Land Trust has also created two nature preserves (named Great Hill and West River) adjacent to High Tor and it holds several conservation easements. In total, the trust has protected a dozen land parcels in this area, and hope remains for more good news during the coming year.