The Land Trust acquired 900 feet of Skaneateles Lake shoreline along with 90 acres of hillside forest in the town of Spafford, Onondaga County. The property is contiguous to the organization’s Cora Kampfe Dickinson Preserve, bringing the total amount of protected Skaneateles shoreline owned by the Land Trust in this area to 2,200 feet.
Also known as the Staghorn Cliffs, this area of Skaneateles Lake contains some of the most pristine shoreline remaining in the Finger Lakes region. Here, the land rises abruptly from the water to form steep cliffs widely regarded for their fossilized coral reef and wild scenic beauty. Densely forested hillsides directly above the cliffs stabilize erodible soils and provide significant habitat for a variety of wildlife, including Bald Eagles and migratory songbirds such as the Cerulean Warbler – a species of particular conservation concern.
The property was identified as a priority for protection as part of the Land Trust’s effort to create a greenbelt around the south end of Skaneateles. Other nearby conservation lands include the High Vista and Hinchcliff Family preserves. The greenbelt is recognized as a priority project within New York State’s Open Space Plan and, because of its value for migratory birds, it is also recognized by National Audubon as one of the state’s Important Bird Areas.
The project is partially funded by a grant from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Water Quality Improvement Project program (WQIP). The program funds projects that directly address documented water quality impairments or protect a drinking water source. The Skaneateles Lake watershed provides drinking water for 220,000 area residents, including people living in the city of Syracuse.
Protection of streams and undeveloped shoreline is a top focus for the Land Trust as development pressures increase in the region. This latest acquisition also features 4,600 feet of frontage on Barber Gulf, a significant tributary to the lake.
“This is a great acquisition for Skaneateles Lake and everyone who relies on it for drinking water,” said Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Zepp. “We’re grateful that New York State is taking action to support projects like this. We look forward to working with our partners to enhance this property to reduce runoff to the lake while also providing for appropriate public access.”
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Thanks to strong partners like the Finger Lakes Land Trust, and Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York is making significant investments to protect open spaces and our natural resources for future generations, while ensuring our communities have access to clean drinking water and bolstering statewide efforts to combat Harmful Algal Blooms. I applaud the Land Trust for their ongoing efforts to safeguard these irreplaceable resources for everyone to enjoy.”
During the coming months, the Land Trust will work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create a wetland that will enhance wildlife habitat and retain storm water runoff. Due to the hazardous nature of the cliffs, public shoreline access will not be allowed here but curious adventurers can visit the cliffs by paddling a bit more than a mile to the site from the Town of Scott boat launch.