Photo: Dan Elswit

Land Gift Helps Protect Ithaca’s Drinking Water

The Land Trust has received a donation of 167 acres, nearly all of which is located within the watershed of Six Mile Creek—the source of Ithaca’s drinking water supply. The property is entirely forested and is located within the towns of Dryden and Caroline, between Ellis Hollow and Midline Roads.

The property does not include road frontage and is accessed by a legal right-of-way. The Land Trust intends to conserve the property by selling to a private individual subject to a perpetual conservation easement. Future subdivision of the land will be prohibited and timber harvest will only be allowed under guidelines that demonstrate how water quality will be maintained.

This land donation was made in memory of Helen Edwards, who had deep connections to Ithaca and a long professional history at Cornell University. It was her intention to donate the land before she died prematurely from cancer. The Land Trust received assistance from The Nature Conservancy (—a conservation organization working locally and around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people—to complete the transaction.

Photo: Dan Elswit

As development pressures in the Finger Lakes region increase, the Land Trust is working to counter threats to water quality by buffering our streams. Protection of undeveloped lands allows for absorption of storm water and its gradual release into streams such as Six Mile Creek. Large, intact forested parcels also help minimize erosion and runoff through their extensive root systems which help bind soil together.

The City of Ithaca has committed to sourcing its drinking water from Six Mile Creek. In 2015, the City initiated a $35 million dollar project to rebuild the 112 year-old drinking water treatment facility, refurbish the drinking water supply line, upgrade facilities at the dam and intake structure, and dredge the reservoir and siltation pond upstream of the reservoir. Maintaining high quality water in Six Mile Creek is a priority.

“The most effective way to ensure continued high quality water for habitat and for human consumption is to protect the source,” said Michael Thorne, Superintendent of Public Works for the City of Ithaca. “Easements like this provide that protection and safe guard our water resource for future generations.”

This is the Land Trust 26th protection project within the Six Mile Creek watershed. In addition to conservation easements on private lands, the organization also owns the Roy H. Park and Peter Rinaldo Nature Preserves – both of which border Six Mile Creek.