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Land donation adds to protection of Keuka Lake

The Finger Lakes Land Trust has accepted a donation of 28 acres in the town of Jerusalem, Yates County, from Art and Kay Wilder. The property contains a half mile of frontage on Big Gully Creek—a tributary to Keuka Lake that has carved a three mile long gorge.

The property, located just north of Branchport, features streamside woodlands and an open area that was used as a gravel mine until 15 years ago. It is one of the last two parcels associated with the farm that had been in the Wilder family for 150 years. Art and Kay hold fond memories of family outings to the gully, and they chose to ensure the future of this very special place through their donation to the Land Trust.

A hike up Big Gully yields glimpses of scenic waterfalls, towering shale cliffs, and mature hemlock and hardwood trees. The flat beds of shale are punctuated by glacial “erratics”—boulders deposited by the last glacial advance. It’s a fascinating walk that is possible at the height of summer when the creek level is low.

“We’re grateful to the Wilders for their generous gift,” says Executive Director Andy Zepp. “This is a classic Finger Lakes gorge that is truly a gem. Their gift will allow others to experience this unique natural area and it will also help maintain water quality within Keuka Lake.”

The organization is raising funds to create public access to this site and contribute to the Land Trust’s Stewardship Fund to cover costs associated with long-term management. For information about making a contribution to this effort, please contact Kelly Makosch at kellymakosch@fllt.org.

The Land Trust hopes a combination of land acquisitions and conservation easements can be secured over time to ensure protection of the entire gully and adjacent areas that provide buffer. Due to safety and liability issues, this preserve will remain closed to the public until site improvements are complete.

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