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Land acquired to protect Owasco Lake watershed

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A critical plot of land in the Owasco Lake watershed has been acquired to help protect public water supplies and safeguard riparian buffers and wetlands.

Located in the town of Locke (Cayuga County), the “Hirst parcel” is the first of several to be purchased by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) with funding from the State DEC’s Water Quality Improvement Program.

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 by TNC, the land cannot be developed and thus will allow its natural features to help protect public water supplies.

TNC will 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.”

Owasco Lake is the source of drinking water for more than 50,000 people. Thousands more take up swimming, fishing, boating and other nature activities year-round.

In 2018, TNC was awarded a $1.1 million grant to identify, protect, and restore parcels of land in the Owasco Lake watershed that have the most impact on the lake’s water quality.

Scientists then set to work ranking 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.

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