The Central New Land Trust, established in 1973 and one of Central New York’s oldest land trusts, took this year to reflect on its grass roots beginnings and celebrate its accomplishments over the past 50 years. “This organization basically started as a group of SUNY ESF students and their professor, Jim Karp, coming together in 1972 to see if they could rally the Onondaga County Community on Earth Day to walk together to save an ecologically-valuable piece of land in Marcellus known as Baltimore Woods from becoming a gravel pit,” said Executive Director, Simon Solomon. “After the success of that walkathon,” he continued, “several members of that grass roots group had a vision of continuing to save land and habitat in the county and the following year, formed the first version of our organization called Save The County. However, saving land in Onondaga County was not enough,” noted Solomon, “so we started moving into Oswego County and changed the name of the organization in 2009 to The Central New York Land Trust, Inc. to reflect this new philosophy.”
Fast forward to this year, the rented headquarters of The Central New York Land Trust sits in the Village of Skaneateles at the north end of beautiful Skaneateles Lake, but not for long. Andrew Ramsgard, Board Chair of The Central New York Land Trust, stated, “Sometime between 1994-1995, we received a beautiful 59-acre piece of property in the Town of Manlius from the Digney Family, and in 2009, received another 35 acres in the Town of Dewitt from The Nature Conservancy, for a total of 94 acres which has become our Woodchuck Hill Preserve.” He continued, “Along with this property came a house which we have been trying to decide how best to use. After much consideration, and with the help of a grant from the Central New York Community Foundation, our Board has decided to convert the house into permanent offices for our organization.” Construction on the parking lot and grounds around the house began the beginning of December and remodeling of the house should be complete by mid-March, 2024. Solomon stated, “We are excited about this new chapter in the history of our organization and look forward to being in our new offices by the end of April, 2024.”
In addition to working on procuring a new, permanent home for the Land Trust’s headquarters, Solomon stated, “We have been hard at work saving land this year as well. By December 31, 2023, we will have saved four more properties totaling 695 in additional acres. This will bring our total preserves to 56 and total acres saved to roughly 4,000 acquired over the past 50 years!” The new preserves are located in both Onondaga and Oswego Counties, two of which will be accessible to the public for hiking in the future. Solomon clarified, “Both the Perkins Woods at Little Tuck Preserve in the Town of Otisco and the HartFarms Preserve in the Town of Hannibal will have trails created so that the public will be able to enjoy these beautiful properties.” He continued, “The Black Creek Preserve in Clay and the O’Neill Family Farm Field Property in Skaneateles are both former farm fields that our Director of Stewardship, Paul Porter, will be working to restore to a more natural state.” Solomon concluded, “We are so pleased to be able to add these properties to our growing list of preserves and to be able to offer the public more areas to explore and connect with the land.” He also hinted there may be more properties in the pipeline for 2024.
The saying, “What’s old is new,” seems to be the theme for the Land Trust this year when they decided to bring back the Walkathon on Earth Day at Green Lakes State Park. Solomon stated, “What better way to celebrate 50 years of saving land by bringing back a tried-and-true method for rallying our community to make a difference in our local ecology.” Gail Calcagnino, a former Land Trust board member and current Fundraising Committee member, said, “I walked in the first Save The County Walkathon as a teenager and here I am again, 50 years later, helping to encourage the youth of today to make the same commitment to saving land as I did at their age.” She continued, “We need more young people to care about their community and become active participants in events such as this so that they and their children will be able to enjoy and connect with the land as my generation and subsequent generations have been able to do.” The Central New York Land Trust plans to continue the Earth Day walkathons and have tentatively scheduled the next one for Saturday, April 20, 2024 at Marcellus Park.
Solomon concluded his reflection of the past 50 years of the organization by saying, “Although I’ve only been in the Executive Director’s position for the past sixteen months, I have had the pleasure of meeting and talking with several people who were there at the beginning of this organization – some of whom are still with the Land Trust.” He continued, “I am in awe of the hard work and dedication of these folks and am honored to be a part of an organization that inspires such devotion and commitment.”
It looks like The Central New York Land Trust will not be slowing down in 2024 either – starting on New Year’s Day with a First day Hike at its Woodchuck Hill Preserve at 10 a.m. Other events tentatively scheduled for 2024 are a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new offices in Manlius on April 4th, the aforementioned Walkathon on April 20, and the annual EverGreen EverBlue Fundraising Dinner on August 10 at The Marietta House. Solomon encouraged the community to go to the Events section of the website and follow our social media for more information about these and other public programs being planned for the year.
The Central New York Land Trust seeks to preserve and protect natural areas in order to provide our communities clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, and a chance to connect with the land. For more information about the Central New York Land Trust, visit www.cnylandtrust.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.