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Protecting the lake

Finger Lakes Land Trust announces ‘greenbelt’ initiative to conserve southern half of Skaneateles Lake

An aerial view of Skaneateles Lake. The Finger Lakes Land Trust has announced a project to conserve the southern half of the lake and surrounding areas.

An aerial view of Skaneateles Lake. The Finger Lakes Land Trust has announced a project to conserve the southern half of the lake and surrounding areas. Bill Hecht

The Burns acquisition also includes a 50-foot by 4,000-foot east-west corridor that will hopefully become a hiking trail, Zepp said. A parking area and trailhead would be created at the end of Covey Road, a dead-end street off of Route 41, and the trail would connect to Ripley Hill Nature Preserve to the east. Ripley Hill is a 118-acre preserve owned by the Central New York Land Trust that is the highest elevation in the Skaneateles Lake watershed.

The trust has set a $1 million fundraising goal to help cover the cost of this purchase as well as fund new hiking trails, site improvements and future maintenance of the land.

Adjacent to the Burns land is a 31-acre parcel that landowners John and Robin Hinchcliff will be taking out a conservation easement on. With conservation easements, the landowners still have rights to the land, but they agree not to build anything or develop the land, which is concurrent with the land trusts’ goal, Zepp said.

Since some of this land will be intended for public use, the local government also gets involved in the process. The purchase and easement in Stafford will be subject to the town’s regulations since they will be considered a Planned Development District (PDD), town supervisor Webb Stevens said.

Having the land labeled as a PDD is a provision in town code that allows the town to set parameters about how the land is used. Once the deal is complete, the town will hold a public hearing and then will be able to set rules about the land’s use. An example of a parameter the town could create would be restricting how close to the edge of the property hiking trails are allowed to go, Stevens said.

Another land use that would be subject to town code would be swimming, Zepp said. Though its newest purchase does not have any lake access, allowing people to swim in the lake or creating a swimming area would only be allowed if the town were to permit it.

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