The Manlius Greenspace Coalition presented plans to turn the Three Falls Woods area in Manlius into a nature preserve at the Aug. 14 town board meeting.
Paul Rubin, a geographer who has been studying the area, addressed the four board members in attendance on behalf of the MGC, as well as for area residents who favor the project.
MGC wants an area off of Route 173 in Manlius to become an educational, recreational, and scientific area named "Three Falls Woods Karst Nature Preserve."
"We have only scratched the surface of what there is to offer here," Rubin said. "A number of cultural features have been discovered: Old foundations, old bottles, remnants of pastures, and a Native American artifact."
Rubin said that there is potentially a network of underground rivers and caves underneath the surface, and hydrology similar to Howe Caverns in Schoharie County.
The area is filled with several pre-glacial sinkholes. Rubin believes that excess rainwater is corralled into a large underground conduit, where it is taken to a major spring. He noted that there is no river in the Three Falls area, which led him to the belief that there could be underground rivers and caves that empty into Perry Springs.
"The area is important," Rubin said. "It could be used for educational purposes and geographic studies."
He also warned that building on the site could be a dangerous endeavor because of the large sinkholes.
The MGC has fought to keep local developer William Camperlino from building at the site. The village board recently voted to designate Three Falls Woods as a Critical Environmental Area. The site, also known as the Onondaga Escarpment Nature Corridor, could still be developed, but only with approval from the State Department of Conservation.
"I want to see where the water at Perry Springs comes from before we make a decision," said Trustee Eric Krouse.