The importance of accessible open space for recreation, physical and mental health, and connecting and learning about nature has become very apparent during the pandemic.
Providing a variety of places to explore and enjoy nature “close to home”—meaning within a 15 to 20-minute drive—is now recognized by social scientists as central to inspiring a lasting connection to wildlife, as well as improving public health. Because of this, one of our strategic initiatives is to establish at least one new conservation area per county over the next five years in Jefferson, Lewis, Oswego, and Oneida Counties.
Late last year, Dr. Marvin Reimer generously donated 121 acres to establish our newest public conservation area on French Settlement Road, in the town of Lorraine, in southernmost Jefferson County, NY.
The conservation area is comprised of a mix of northern hardwood forests with several large beaver ponds, wetland areas, and important habitat to resident and migrating birds. It also contains foundations from two historic farmstead sites.
Getting the place ready for the community took a giant step forward recently, thanks to a gift from Pure Water for Life (PWfL). This lead gift of $30,000 will help create a parking area, trails, signage, and educational programming.
“We thought it would be years before we could improve the public access—and then came this amazing gift from PWfL,” explained Linda Garrett, Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust’s Executive Director.
The vision includes creating a parking area large enough for a school bus and several cars; non-motorized trails that meander throughout the property; and benches and resting areas. Funding permitting, we hope to create wildlife viewing areas and an accessible trail.
Additional grants and community donations will supplement the grant from PWfL. Once the parking area and trail improvements are complete, we will host guided nature walks and other educational programs for the public, youth groups, and schools.
Linda notes that the timing couldn’t be better. “It’s our hope that the next $15,000 needed for phase two of the trail and habitat improvements will be contributed by members of our community over the summer to keep progress going. This is such a special place. We can’t wait for people to see it.”