Wells Falls

Wells Falls along Six Mile Creek from New Years Eve. Photo taken by Mike ServedioGot a great Ithaca photo? Tag yours under #ithacatimesdaily on Instagram and we might feature your pic in our next Photo of the Day. 

Ithaca and Dryden residents will see local water protections beefed up after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and the Finger Lakes Land Trust announced on Feb. 10 that both organizations have established a perpetual conservation easement for a 13.5-acre property in the Six Mile Creek watershed.

The easement will further assist the Land Trust’s efforts in protecting the City of Ithaca’s water supply by limiting development on what is known as the “Boris property” (located just off of State Route 79 and east of German Cross Road). It also includes 1,100 feet of frontage on the creel. The property crosses the creek and includes frontage on both banks.

Land Trust CEO Andrew Zepp said this is the 20th conservation easement in the watershed that the organization has acquired. The latest easement is located adjacent to land on the creek that the Land Trust has already conserved, too.

“These conservation easements … essentially become a part of the deed to the property,” Zepp said. “So they don’t typically provide public access, but instead put limits on future uses of the property. In this case, for example, there’s a surveyed zone to the creek that is highly restricted – it’s an environmental protection zone. But there’s another portion of the property where they’re allowed to harvest timber commercially, but it has to be done subject to a management plan.”

Zepp said because there is a designated development site in the area of the creek, the easement will ensure that the creek will not be encroached upon and the water quality will not be harmed.

“Essentially, this goes beyond what local land use regulations are and adds a higher level of protection,” he said.

He also said once one of these easements is set in place, it is the Land Trust’s obligation to stay connected with the current and any future owners of the property and make sure that they understand the terms of the easement, and then monitor the owner’s compliance with the easement.

Within the 13.5-acre property is a seven-acre environmental protection zone that both the Land Trust and the Tompkins County Soil and Conservation District will utilize in repairing the riparian buffer and the 1,100 feet of frontage. The plan is to plant more stable vegetation in order to lower erosion rates.

With this easement, the Land Trust has now accrued about 2,000 acres of land in the Six Mile Creek watershed area. The purchase of the Boris property was funded through a $641,250 grant from the NYSDEC’s Water Quality Improvement Program to protect the watershed.

“All of our other easements in Six Mile Creek were donated, and there’s some tax incentives for landowners that do that,” Zepp said. “This new state program gives us the ability to work with more owners who are really looking for … some financial return on their land.”

Zepp said the Land Trust will be working on two more projects relating to Six Mile Creek this year, both encompassing 300 acres of land in total. One of those projects features 4,000 feet of frontage and the other centers on 170 acres of wooded hillsides overlooking State Route 79. 

 Aside from its project of protecting the Six Mile Creek watershed, the Land Trust is also working to conserve the Cayuga Cliffs in Lansing.

“If you ever go to Taughannock Falls State Park in Taughannock Point, and you look across the lake at Lansing, it’s just kind of a wall of green; it’s undeveloped,” Zepp said. “We’re going to be acquiring 4,300 feet of shoreline there with 200 acres. That will both secure that view buffer of the lake and then be a new preserve that people can go visit.”

Zepp expects the Land Trust to acquire that land, which is located off of Ridge Road, in the next six months or so and then spend a year or two planning and performing the site improvements.

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