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THE
JOURNAL

Spring Edition

May, 2023

UPCOMING VOLUNTEER DAYS

To sign up for any of the following volunteer days, please click on the button below to fill out the sign up form.

Wednesday, May 3rd, 10:00 AM until done - Tree Planting at The Michele and Margherita Albanese Preserve in Spafford.  

Every Monday & Thursday 9:00 - 11:00 AM - Dry stone wall building, trail management, and/or invasive plant removal at Woodchuck Hill in Manlius.  Please email kpearson@cnylandtrust.org to sign up.

Friday, May 5th, 10:00 AM until done - Tree Planting at The Michele and Margherita Albanese Preserve in Spafford.  
 

Friday, May 12th, 10:00 AM until done - Tree Planting at The Michele and Margherita Albanese Preserve in Spafford.

 

Saturday, May 13th, 10:00 AM until done - Tree Planting at The Michele and Margherita Albanese Preserve in Spafford.

Friday, May 19th, 10:00 AM until done - Old Fly Marsh Beaver Dam Work.

Letter from the Executive Director

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder


It’s time to get outside and enjoy this marvelous season of new beginnings! What is nature doing in Central New York right now? Hibernating species are reawakening, blossoms on trees are blooming, plants are emerging from the ground and while the ice across our lakes continue to thaw, our lawns begin to come to life.

I encourage everyone to get outdoors and explore all that our beautiful region has to offer. Whether it be at one of our eighteen public access preserves such as Whiskey Hollow, High Hickory Wildlife Sanctuary, Old Fly Marsh or our Pleasant Valley Diamond Preserve, you’ll surely find a new trail to explore with friends and family. Better yet, when you set out to explore one of these preserves bring a picnic lunch to enjoy beneath a shade tree while your children skip rocks and explore nature’s forest floor.

We continue to make investments in our more than 51 preserve properties and 3,400+ acres of managed land and expect an additional 1,000+ acres in 2023 for all to enjoy. A few soon to be acquired preserve properties are located in areas such as Tully with hilltop views stretching as far north as the Syracuse Skyline, to a donated parcel of land from Ducks Unlimited located in Oswego County which was an old onion plantation, to a beautiful 200+ acre wooded lot located in Hannibal which includes multiple waterfalls situated at the headwaters of Ninemile Creek.

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Simon Solomon, Executive Director and his son, River.  Photo credit to Simon's other son, Dax

The time to get outside is now! Just look at our friends over at Pleasant Valley who helped save this land from future development. We are fortunate to have received a grant to invest in Pleasant Valley to allow for free-flowing water beneath a newly built grant funded bridge, a future kiosk, parking area, and continued trail development and meadow restoration. We are even creating our very owned hand thatched bird blind! For those of you who have yet to visit Pleasant Valley, you are in for a treat.

 

During these next few years, you will notice notable investments at this preserve due to our partnership with the federal government and our friends over at U.S. Fish & Wildlife. Just this week, our Pleasant Valley colleagues along with our Director of Land Stewardship planted hundreds of tree saplings to coincide with our 4-year grant management plan.
If you or anyone you know is interested in becoming a volunteer preserve land steward please reach out. Although we are considered to be the 6th largest land trust in the state of New York based upon acquired land mass, we are a lean  organization always looking for others to help lend a hand. 

In closing, I’d like to encourage you to experience why we do what we do. As the saying goes, we seek to preserve and protect natural areas in order to provide our communities clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, and a chance to connect with the land.


Happy Spring!
Simon Millar Solomon
Executive Director
The Central New York Land Trust

Director
50th Anniversary Walk for Nature

by Kendra Pearson

Thank you everyone for coming out to Walk for Nature.  We were overwhelmed by the show of support from the community, our members, students from several local schools including Baldwinsville, Fayetteville-Manlius, Skaneateles, Syracuse Latin, Tully, Lyncourt, Wild & Free Academy, OCM Boces, SUNY ESF, SU, and local Girl Scout Troop 10042. 

We would like to thank Cayuga Tree Services, Hueber-Breuer, and Wegmans, our generous event sponsors, and our special guests Onondaga Audubon, Onondaga Earth Corps, and The Station Art Gallery. 

Walk for Nature 2023 was a monumentous milestone in our organization's history - an organization that started in 1972 with the simple idea that the community could be mobilized to save important natural spaces.  SU Environmental Law Professor Jim Karp, and SUNY ESF students Jon Bart, Connie Komarek, and Paul Chakroff created Save The County and organized a walkathon to do just that.

They approached Onondaga County schools to get students to procure pledges for walking.  Marcellus High School became involved, and one of the teachers, Jim Moran, reached out to Save The County to discuss a property that he felt was worth saving.  It had recently gone on the market, and the owner was negotiating with a gravel mining company to purchase it for $25,000.  After meetings with local community members and visiting the property, they knew they had to save this unique woodland. 

Save The County needed to move fast to find the money.  They could not wait until funds were raised from the walkathon, so they approached The Nature Conservancy, which generously loaned them the purchase price of the property with the stipulation that the money be repaid in three years (with interest), and the property given to an organization that would manage it as a nature preserve.  Later that year the first Walk To Save The County raised $24,400 - almost the exact purchase price of the property that became Baltimore Woods.  The following year Save The County became a nonprofit conservation organization in order to manage Baltimore Woods and continue saving land for the future.  Save The County eventually changed their name to The Central New York Land Trust.  In the intervening years, we have protected an additional 50 conservation areas.    

This 50th anniversary we were excited to bring back the walkathon that started it all, and mobilize the community once again to take action and save land.  We thank everyone for joining us. 

Pleasant Valley Preserve
A Conservation Site Saved by a Determined Group of Environmental Heroes

by Kendra Pearson

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From left to right: Barb Root, Harvey Nusbaum, and Diana Green 

Kathy Schwab

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Steve Schwab

Pleasant Valley is a 200+ acre nature preserve in the Town of Onondaga, and a recent acquisition for The Central New York Land Trust, but its future as a conservation site was not always guaranteed.  In fact, in 2019 just 24-hours stood between the property becoming a forever wild space or becoming privately owned. 

Pleasant Valley Preserve was once part of Karl & Mary Wiles' family farm where they grew crops, raised Christmas trees, and made maple syrup for their iconic local brand - Cedarvale Maple Syrup.  They allowed their neighbors and friends to walk the woodlands and experience the beautiful wetland complex, and it quickly became a refuge for people seeking the solitude of nature. 

In 2019 the Wiles decided to retire and they put their land up for sale.  Barb Root, a neighbor and visitor to the property, contacted the CNY Land Trust in the hopes that we would purchase the site and keep it wild.  Barb, her husband Harvey Nusbaum, and friend Diana Green offered to donate a third of the purchase price of the land. 

In the meantime, a buyer approached the Wiles with an offer that they accepted.  Karl broke the news to Barb and Harvey, but undaunted and unwilling to give up, Barb asked if the deal was final.  He said he had 24 hours to back out.  After a long, sleepless night contemplating their options, they could only come up with one solution.  Both graduates of SUNY ESF, they knew the ecological importance of this property and they couldn't risk it being developed.  That next morning they called and made a higher offer on the land, which was accepted. 

Barb and Harvey went on to hold the mortgage for the CNY Land Trust, knowing that we did not have the capital to purchase it.  They and Diana formed the Friends of Pleasant Valley and began the arduous work of raising money so that the mortgage could be repaid and the site turned over to us.  They were joined by Kathy and Steve Schwab, both former board members of the Land Trust, and between the five of them they supplied a matching fund, which was the basis of the Save Pleasant Valley campaign.  Several other neighbors stepped up and also made significant contributions, but more was needed,  Again undaunted, the Friends of Pleasant Valley held online art auctions and raised money from more than 250 additional donors.  After years of hard work and effort through COVID and uncertain financial markets, they were able to amass the remainder needed for the CNY Land Trust, and Pleasant Valley Preserve was saved.

Pleasant Valley represents a diverse assemblage of rich wetlands, rare cedar fen, intact high-quality uplands, and meadows.  Its importance cannot be understated from a conservation standpoint, and it is the determination of the Friends of Pleasant Valley that has ensured its future for us all.  The next time you visit this preserve and walk across the newly built bridge to look out over the wetland or traverse through the woodland, try seeing it from the eyes of people willing to risk everything to keep it wild.  It is easy to take our natural spaces for granted, but once they are gone they will not recover.  We are grateful for the foresight and hard work of the Friends of Pleasant Valley.  You are a remarkable group of environmental heroes.

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Have you ever thought about making a legacy gift to The Central New York Land Trust?  Do you have land that you would like to see protected for the future?  If so, please email Simon Solomon ssolomon@cnylandtrust.org or call (315) 575-8839.  

Walk
PVP
The Mighty Phragmites
A Quest to Put This Invasive to Good Use

by Kendra Pearson

Phragmites (Phragmites australis subsp. australis) has become a common sight throughout Central New York.  After its introduction in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, it rapidly spread across the US with its three-level approach to reproduction.  Phragmites seeds can be spread by wind or animal, and the reed also propagates itself with above-ground stolons and underground rhizomes.  It is a fierce foe for landowners and conservationists who attempt to eradicate or at least keep it at bay. 

Phragmites poses a serious threat to animal habitats and native vegetation.  It thrives on slopes, in depressions and culverts, and in well-drained or waterlogged areas, including standing water.  Volunteers can be found out on frozen ponds cutting the tops and burning the seed heads in winter, wading through wetlands and hauling out reeds with undeveloped seed heads in the summer, and digging up roots in culverts in the fall.  All of this work is carried out annually with the knowledge that the job of eradication may never truly be done.  It is no wonder volunteers would become disheartened and desire more tangible results from all of this hard work.  

When we began planning the universal access trail and bird hide for Pleasant Valley Preserve, Barb Root, one of the founding members of the Friends of Pleasant Valley, and Paul Porter, Director of Stewardship, decided to create the roof for the bird hide using an ancient method called thatching, using the phragmites removed from the wetland.  

Thatched roofs are made of bundles of reeds, usually phragmites, which is a native of Europe.  These bundles are stacked, woven, and attached to the top of a structure.  Once installed, the thatched roof can last up to 40 years with proper maintenance.  

Small Phragmites Bundles 

Since that fateful meeting, Barb and fellow Friends of Pleasant Valley Member Kate Woodle have been harvesting this invasive from our preserves and other locations around CNY.  Each final bundle contains approximately 300 stems.  It takes one bundle for every square foot of building to create a roof.  At present, Barb has 44 bundles, with the expectation that it will take at least another 160 (depending on final building design) to complete the roof.  We believe it will be a beautiful focal point for visitors to the preserve, and a testimonial to traditional craftwork and ingenuity.  

If you would like more information about thatching, we recommend reading Thatch: A complete guide to the ancient art of thatching by Robert West and Thatching by Nicholas Hall.  

If you would like to join the Friends of Pleasant Valley on a phragging function, make sure to sign up the next time a phragmites volunteer day is scheduled.  It's more fun than a game of pick up sticks.  

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Phragmites Seed Heads

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From Front to Back - Diane Emord, Volunteer, Barb Root, Volunteer, and Henry Dul, Land Steward, Bundling Phragmites at Pleasant Valley Preserve

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Phragmites Cutting at Woodchuck Hill

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Phragmites Cutting at Pleasant Valley Preserve - From Left to Right: Liz Williams, Barb Root, and Kate Woodle

Grass Sickle and Hemp Twine for Cutting and Bundling Phragmites

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A Letter From Pleasant Valley
Founding Member of The Friends of Pleasant Valley

Dear Fellow CNY Land Trust Members,

 

Pleasant Valley Preserve is a beautiful land of trees, ponds, streams, wildflowers, frogs, birds, coyotes, vistas, ski slopes and trails. We felt gifted that Karl & Mary let us walk our dogs and cross-country ski this natural area. But then after so many years we faced the idea that it would be developed: would the animals lose their home & the solace we had received there be gone forever?


We decided to save the land and let it be a legacy from us to future generations. Perhaps we could help the CNY Land Trust to purchase it? I saw how this was possible in the Land Trust’s efforts to raise the money to buy a large parcel at Great Bear. Diana, Barb  & Harvey and Kathy & Steve committed significant funds to purchase Pleasant Valley. The CNY Land Trust Board
visited the land and they, too, saw its beauty, uniqueness and many habitats. They supported buying the land, but they did not have the funds. So Barb & Harvey took a great risk – friends and even their lawyer advised against it – they loaned the Land Trust the remainder of the funds.


Diana Green Working Hard As Usual at Pleasant Valley

How would this money be repaid? We decided to found the Friends of Pleasant Valley and fundraise. We knew other neighbors valued this land also. What a hard-working, committed group we became! So many people had wonderful skills they added to our efforts: Diane Emord set up bluebird boxes & offered her expertise on the care of the wood ducks & bat houses that Eagle Scout Gabe was building. Artists & artisans like Betsy Edinger, Kate Woodle & Tony Baleno, offered their work for our auction. We pitched in to mark trails, put up posters, visit businesses, organize a photography contest. Over 250 neighbors contributed funds to Pleasant Valley. We helped write a grant for our preserve.

 

After three years of constant effort, interrupted by Covid, the money was successfully raised. The legacy continues to expand: cornfields turn into meadows for grassland birds, trees are planted, bird blinds and universal access trails are planned, bee boxes are being installed, invasives are being eradicated. We see more animals every year: fisher, more wood ducks & bluebirds, owls, herons, sora, and other birds.

We feel blessed to have saved this land, to work together to make it better, to leave something beautiful for future generations. This is a journey that heals the soul.

Diana Green