The Nature Conservancy is breaking ground on a new trail system in the Finger Lakes. Located at West Hill preserve in Naples, it will be the first multi-use trail system designed for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers to be offered by The Nature Conservancy in New York. The completed trail will total 13.5 miles, improving a section of the 900-mile Finger Lakes Trail that currently runs through the preserve. The first section, under construction and expected to open to the public by the end of 2023, will be 3.5 miles, ranging in difficulty from beginner to intermediate.
Visitors to the new trail can expect more recreational options, improved sightlines, increased accessibility and a better user experience overall. The resulting trail will be a win for the environment as well, reducing the amount of sediment being contributed unnecessarily into headwater streams of Canandaigua Lake.
Bill Ulfelder, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in New York, said, “Now a global organization, The Nature Conservancy got started in New York over 70 years ago by a passionate group of volunteers. Today, here in New York we manage over 100 preserves totaling more than 81,000 thousand acres all across the state. The preserves are a vital part of local communities. Our preserves include some of the Conservancy’s most visited preserves nationally, providing a special place to be in nature and experience all the benefits it provides. We are grateful to our partners at International Mountain Bicycling Association, the Town and Village of Naples, Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists, and the Finger Lakes Trail Conference who have worked with us to thoughtfully and inclusively plan and design this new trail. It will allow more people to access and enjoy nature in new ways. I can’t wait to visit soon!”
A Trail Accelerator Grant from the International Mountain Bicycling Association funded design work for the trail, as well as the community planning process that informed it. The Town and Village of Naples, Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists, Finger Lakes Trail Conference, Twisted Branch Trail Run, The Nature Conservancy and several other regional trail user groups and stakeholders participated in the planning for the trail.
One learning from the community planning process was how trail preferences have evolved. While steep and muddy hiking routes have been the norm, preferences have shifted to trails that enable a wider variety of activities such as trail running and mountain biking, geared towards a broader group of users and experience levels.
Feedback revealed the desire to have a sense of communal ownership of the trail system. Communities of volunteer stewards will continue to help care for the trail after it is complete. The Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists, a local chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and a leading partner, will be the stewards of the first phase of the new trail system. The Nature Conservancy has contracted with a firm specializing in design and installation of nature trails to complete this phase. To learn more about volunteering, interested parties can visit the West Hill Preserve page at nature.org/newyork.