The importance of having accessible open spaces for recreation, physical and mental health and connecting and learning about nature has become very apparent during these months of dealing with the pandemic. Creating those spaces has taken a giant step forward thanks to a recent gift that Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust (THTLT) received from Pure Water for Life (PWfL). The lead gift of $30K will help create a parking area, trails, signage and educational programming at THTLT’s newest public conservation area on French Settlement Road, in the town of Lorraine, in southernmost Jefferson County, NY.
“Only months ago, Dr. Marvin Reimer made a wonderful gift to THTLT of a 121-acre property that will help THTLT tell the story of the Heart of Tug Hill forests and the history of settlement,” said THTLT executive director Linda Garrett. “But we thought it would be years before we could improve the public access by building a parking area, trails and educational programs for the property – and then came this amazing gift from PWfL!”
The new French Settlement Road public conservation area is a mix of northern hardwood forests, with several large beaver ponds and wetland areas. There is even evidence of two farmstead sites. The vision for improving the access includes a parking area large enough for a school bus and several cars, non-motorized trails that meander throughout the property, and in the future an all-access trail. The property will be protected forever, and as the forest matures, THTLT expects it to approach late successional forest similar to what Tug Hill forests were like before harvested for wood and cleared for farming.
The gift from PWfL will also help create interpretive signage along trails, trail maps, and perhaps even wildlife viewing areas. Once the parking area has been developed, THTLT will host guided nature walks and other educational programs for the public as well as youth groups and schools.
PWfL was established in 1987 to preserve the natural resources and wildlife of the Tug Hill region. It began over concerns about the impact of the solid waste management facility proposed for, and since built, in Rodman to serve the counties around Fort Drum at the time of the Fort’s major expansion. Since, PWfL has focused on protection of Tug Hill natural resources, especially in the Rodman and surrounding towns area. Feeling it was time to transition its energies, PWfL decided to look for an organization with similar concerns about protecting Tug Hill natural resources to make use of PWfL remaining financial resources.
“I knew about the work of THTLT through my involvement in the Cooperative Tug Hill Council, and thought the mission of THTLT and PWfL were similar”, commented Roger Tibbetts, PWfL President. “The PWfL board felt this gift would really have a lasting and positive impact on this project.”
Emilio D’Argenio emphasized “It is really exciting and heartening to know that the money is being put to good use. PWFL raised nearly a half million dollars and it was well spent. Safeguards in the design and operation of the Development Authorities landfill were put in place as well as benefits to the town of Rodman. This most likely would not have been accomplished without the involvement of PWFL and our supporters. The donations were mostly small amounts and much of it came from folks that could least afford to give. Everyone realized the importance of protecting the uniqueness and resources of Tug Hill. I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished and especially pleased to be part of this positive development with the Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust.”
Dave Larrabee, PWfL board member and retired NYS Forest Ranger said, “I am passionate about creating and maintaining trails for the public to enjoy, and I recognize the importance of our forests not only to the future of Tug Hill, but to our world.” Dave Larrabee was honored with THTLT’s Top of the Hill award at THTLT’s 2020 annual meeting in December.
THTLT is already starting work on parking area and trail location for the property. The plan is to start construction of the parking area as soon as possible. THTLT will be working closely with PWfL and the local communities as we develop the trails and educational signs and programs.