The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have announced the acquisition of a parcel in the Owasco Lake watershed that is expected to help protect public water supplies and safeguard riparian buffers and wetlands.
The acquisition of the Hirst Tract in the town of Locke, Cayuga County, is the first of several parcels TNC plans to purchase that target the protection of source waters with funding from New York State’s Water Quality Improvement Program.
In an announcement of the deal sent to the press, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said “TNC’s acquisition of the first of several parcels in the Owasco watershed using state water funding is helping create a healthier lake, protecting the water supply, reducing the potential for Harmful Algal Blooms, and continuing to contribute to the local economies dependent on quality recreational opportunities.”
“Owasco Lake is the source of drinking water for more than 50,000 people and a place where thousands of families swim, fish, boat, and explore nature year-round,” said Jim Howe, The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western Director. “But Owasco, like many of the Finger Lakes, faces urgent water quality challenges. The strategic protection of these lands, which play a major role in safeguarding the lake, is an investment in the region’s health and quality of life.”
In 2018, TNC was awarded a $1.1 million grant through the Environmental Protection Fund’s Water Quality Improvement Program to identify, protect, and restore parcels of land in the Owasco Lake watershed that have the most impact on the lake’s water quality. The Nature Conservancy scientists then ranked all 3,000 land parcels in the watershed for attributes like wetlands and forested slopes with headwater streams that help prevent pollution from reaching the lake. The Hirst property ranked at the top in their assessment and cost $280,000 using a portion of the $1.1 million.
At 203 acres, the property consists of vacant woodland and approximately 50 acres of freshwater forested/shrub wetlands with two seasonal streams. Both streams flow north into Dry Creek within Fillmore Glen State Park, where they feed the park’s natural swimming pool, then flow into the Owasco Inlet, the primary tributary to Owasco Lake. Once acquired, TNC plans to convey the parcel to the New York State Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) to be added to Filmore Glen State Park.
“We look forward to acquiring this critical habitat for addition to Fillmore Glen State Park under our multi-year open space acquisition plan, as we evaluate its potential use for passive recreation, such as trails,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “This property will further protect the quality of the creek that runs through our park, and its public swimming area, before feeding the Owasco Inlet, a critical tributary to the lake.”
Photo of Owasco Inlet by Olivia Green.