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Spafford town board to hold public hearing on nature preserves

A rendering done by artist Robert McNamara of the planned trail-head for the new nature preserve in Spafford.

A rendering done by artist Robert McNamara of the planned trail-head for the new nature preserve in Spafford.

A new nature preserve in Spafford is close to becoming a reality.

The Spafford town board will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22 to hold a public hearing on two proposed local laws to establish Planned Development Districts (PDD) in the town, both of which will become nature preserves with hiking trails under the guidance of the Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Since some of the land in question will be opened up for public use, town code says that it must be designated as a PDD and the town has the right to set rules about land usage and get public input before making the final approval.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust, which manages 30 conservation areas and more than 100 conservation easements, has never needed to have a property designated as a PDD before, executive director Andy Zepp said.

Despite the increased processing time, the PDD will not place any new or unusual restrictions on the land and all public feedback has been positive thus far, Zepp said.

One of the districts includes 200 acres of land that the trust recently purchased from local farmers Bill and Leonard Burns and a conservation easement on 31 acres of land owned by John and Robin Hinchcliff.

The land acquired from Burns will become a nature preserve complete with a 2-mile looped trail that will offer scenic views of Skaneateles Lake, though it offers no lake access. The land trust also plans to build an 18-car parking area and trailhead at the end of Covey Road, a dead-end street off of Route 41, Zepp said.

The town considered officially abandoning Covey Road to make it a private roadway under the guidance of the land trust, though state law prohibits them from doing so, Spafford Town Supervisor Webb Stevens said.

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