Photo: Nigel Kent

Lick Brook 2019: Let’s Renew & Interpret These Wonderful Gorge Trails!

Update, January 7, 2020:  Thank you!  You did it!  You helped us raise over $65,000 to rehabilitate the gorge trail at the Sweedler Preserve at Lick Brook!  You can still give to help us save more land and water forever and you can get our monthly newsletter to hear about new conservation projects.


Some 26 years ago, early supporters of the Finger Lakes Land Trust banded together to create the Sweedler Preserve at Lick Brook – protecting a signature gorge ecosystem forever.  Today, the expanded conservation lands are among our most popular with locals and visitors who want to experience Ithaca’s famous gorges year-round.  This April, we began a vital project to renew the eroding trails and interpret the site with educational kiosks.

A professional trail-building crew from the Adirondacks will bring mountain experience and muscle to this worthy endeavor!  Much of the work will focus on the steep blue trail that runs along the gorge and connects the preserve with Buttermilk Falls and Robert H. Treman State Parks via the Finger Lakes TrailYou can volunteer with FLLT.

Photo: Chris Ray

The popular and challenging Lick Brook trails, on steep glacial slopes and gorge topography, need renewal after 26 years of frequent use.

Lick Brook and the Cayuga Inlet are conservation priorities for the Finger Lakes Land Trust.  In 1993, the Land Trust created the original 128-acre Sweedler Preserve – securing the northern half of the gorge and a section of the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT).  Since then, the Land Trust has protected additional lands here, including the adjacent Thayer Preserve and nearby Cayuga Inlet Conservation Area.  We also helped NYS Parks add land to nearby Robert H. Treman State Park.  Currently, the Land Trust owns over 300 acres with several miles of trails in this corridor.

Once a hidden gem, Lick Brook gorge is among our most popular preserves.  Connected to two state parks by the Finger Lakes Trail, Lick Brook is visited year-round by tourists and residents who want a glimpse of Ithaca’s famous gorges.  Over 580,000 visits were recorded at Treman and Buttermilk State Parks last year, and many of these same visitors also hike at Lick Brook.

Group events are regularly scheduled at Lick Brook by local organizations including the Cayuga Bird Club, Cayuga Trails Club, and Ithaca College and Cornell University organizations.  Red Newt Racing uses the trails as part of a larger trail network to host the Cayuga Trails 50 race.  This annual summer event brings an estimated 425 entrants and 500 visitors and volunteers into the community and out on the trails.

The ever-increasing popularity of Lick Brook has resulted in erosion, trail degradation, and a need for site renewal and interpretation.  With early investments from trail supporters, the Land Trust is working with contractors, partners, and volunteers to rehabilitate the steep blue trail that runs along the gorge and the trail entrance, improve parking, and install informational kiosks.

Photo: Nigel Kent

The Sweedler and Thayer Preserves at Lick Brook are among our most beloved, with layers of waterfalls and stretches of hemlock shade.

The Land Trust is working with wildlife artist and designer Bob McNamara to create educational panels and maps for the interpretive kiosks.  A kiosk will be installed at the main entrance at Townline Road.  An additional kiosk will be located at the preserve’s western entrance to help visitors coming from Treman State Park and the Route 13 corridor.

Photo: Chris Ray

A professional trail-building crew from the Adirondacks will bring mountain experience and muscle to help us secure the steep blue trail.

Please contact us with questions about this exciting project and how you can help save land and water in the Finger Lakes region.  The Land Trust is thankful for project support from Tompkins Trust Company, the Legacy Foundation of Tompkins County, Tompkins County Tourism Capital Grant, Fields Pond Foundation, New York’s Environmental Protection Fund and the NYS Conservation Partnership Program administered by the Land Trust Alliance, and the Howland Foundation as administered by the Community Foundation of Tompkins County.  Please help us complete this vital stewardship work!