Land donation protects scenic Finger Lakes Trail

Conservationist donates 138 acres to Land Trust

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Hikers can rejoice thanks to a recent 138-acre land donation to the Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) by Dr. Anne Boyer, which secures a scenic stretch of the Finger Lakes Land Trail for public use.

On July 23, FLLT announced the donation of a large area of land that covers Boyer’s farmland in Caroline, according to a recent press release.

Andy Zepp, FLLT executive director, said the Finger Lakes Trail has shrunk in public access thanks to much of it being on private land, so Boyer’s donation helps bring back a large section of the beautiful hiking trail.

“We hope to continue our effort to make [the Finger Lakes Trail] a continuous band of conserved land,” Zepp said. “I’ve lived in areas that once had this and it went away. … As someone who enjoys the outdoors and hiking, it’s very frustrating when you want to go forward, and the trail stops.”

The donation is indicative of Boyer’s dedication to conservation, one that Zepp said he saw first hand.

“If you think of what makes the Finger Lakes Region special for people, a lot of it is based on the land,” Zepp said. “Ann is someone who’s very passionate about conserving land in this particular place. … It’s a tremendous gift to the Land Trust and the community to ensure that this very scenic and diverse land will remain that way in the future.”

Boyer’s passion for land conservation goes way back, Boyer said. She bought her land and farm from a couple in the 1970s after a particularly stunning experience viewing the land for the first time.

“I came up and I saw the place, and I walked up to the top of the hill, and you can see [30] miles in all directions,” Boyer said. “It was one of the most spectacular views that I’ve ever seen, and I said, ‘I have to be able to come here, and this has to be preserved so others can see it, too.’”

Zepp, too, has been blown away by the nature on the land, which is why he is especially glad Boyer was so kind as to donate it.

“What really makes this place so special is these views,” Zepp said. “It has tremendous vistas from the trail.”

Donating the land to FLLT was a natural step to make sure everyone can enjoy the land as much as she has, Boyer said.

“I originally got it because I wanted to preserve it for other people as well, and I knew I couldn’t do that beyond my lifetime,” Boyer said. “I don’t like to see cement parking lots. I don’t like to see all of nature destroyed or any part of nature destroyed.”

The Land Trust plans to establish a public conservation area on the property, which includes vast, 30-mile views of the landscape from a hilltop trail accessible via the Finger Lakes Trail, according to the release.

This donation helps to enhance habitat connectivity in the conserved lands surrounding the Finger Lakes Trail, which include the Potato Hill State Forest, Robinson Hollow State Forest, the Land Trust’s Goetchius Wetland Preserve, a natural area owned by Cornell University, and three properties already protected by FLLT conservation easements, per the release.

Protection of this land also expands the Emerald Necklace, a network of conserved lands with the goal of linking 50,000 acres of existing public open space that stretches in an arc around Ithaca. The Emerald Necklace is home to 78 miles of the Finger Lakes Trail, two Audubon-designated Important Bird Areas and several dozen Tompkins County-designated Unique Natural Areas.

Working with Zepp and others at FLLT for this donation was an easy process, Boyer said, and after sorting through many complicated logistics, both groups were satisfied with the donation and the eventual use of the land.

“[FLLT is] not people-focused first,” she said. “They’re people-focused second, so as long as people don’t interfere with the nature, that’s fine. … That was my goal, too.”

Ian Golden, owner of Red Newt Racing and Finger Lakes Running Company, is a Finger Lakes Trail user and admirer. He said he sees the donation as a huge benefit to the region, both for FLLT and those who love enjoying the nature Tompkins County has to offer.

“Such gifts provide community members the access points to get outside, runners and hikers the ability to connect longer trail sections, occasional events to bring real dollars into communities and typically an increase in surrounding land desirability and worth,” Golden said in an email. “Larger than that, donations to the Land Trust ensure long-term protection of critical ecological connections and habitats, and that area is no exception.”

In addition to the 138 acres, Boyer also donated an adjacent 15-acre parcel of land, where she maintains a private residence, as a conservation easement. This area ensures no additional homes or other projects will be constructed along the edge of the main donated land, which Boyer said she saw as an important way to protect the donation after she’s gone.

“It’s not land that I actively used, but they wanted to be assured that anybody who might at some future date buy the house couldn’t put parking lots or Empire State Buildings between the two so they could keep it as pristine as possible,” Boyer said.

Boyer’s donation is a big step in helping FLLT achieve its conservation goals, Zepp said, and he and the rest of the county will certainly enjoy having a beautiful, more continuous trail to hike.

Plans for the coming year include completing a natural resource inventory of the site to develop a management plan and guide future use of the land. FLLT is looking to raise funds for the Stewardship Fund, which will cover long-term management costs for the land.

For information about making a contribution to this effort, please contact Kelly Makosch at kellymakosch@fllt.org.

Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at www.fllt.org. This year, the Land Trust is celebrating its 30th anniversary with hikes throughout the region. Visit fllt.org/news for a list of events.

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MIchelle Brackin

I am excited about more places to hike.

Tuesday, August 27