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Ithaca is People: Kelly Makosch

Founded in 1989, the Finger Lakes Land Trust works across 12 counties in Upstate New York, all the way from Honeoye to Otisco Lake. Their mission is to “work to ensure scenic vistas, clean water, local foods, and wild places” are accessible and open to everyone. The properties they protect range from those that are in private ownership still, to lands that the Finger Lakes Land Trust hold to make available for the public to use anytime they want.

“We have 40 nature preserves that are open to everyone to explore,” Kelly explained. “Though we do much more than that. We work in agriculture projects, nature preserves, and conversation easement. Some land trusts focus on one – we handle all three.”

There are around 1,500 land trusts in the US, ranging from small volunteer-based organizations to larger entities, such as the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. Finger Lakes Land Trust falls into the medium-sized category, with 13 full- and part-time staff members.

Ithaca Lick Brook Sweedler Preserve New York

Kelly initially found the Finger Lakes Land Trust by hiking on one of their nature preserves, which happens to be her favorite. “All of the preserves are beautiful, but I love hiking Lickbrook. It has many preserved areas of the trail and land, including the Sweedler Preserve where the waterfall is.”

When asked about the Finger Lakes Land Trust’s biggest success, Kelly lights up. “Specific to Tompkins County, I feel our biggest success was recently was protecting part of Six Mile Creek, which is the source of the drinking water for the City of Ithaca. All of the drinking water in Ithaca comes from this little creek, and we just finished a project to protect the headwaters of the creek, including a nature tributary and a stretch of the actual creek. It's 128 acres and it’s in the town of Dryden. It’s also one property away from the Roy H. Park Preserve, which is a preserve that protects a whole different stretch of Size Mile Creek, so we just recently added this new protection to this land.”

In looking to their next goal, Kelly hopes to protect the land between the recent acquisition of the Peter M. Ronaldo Preserve and the Roy H. Park Preserve to connect them. This would mean the land is fully protected, that the 128 acres, “no one will ever be able to build on again, so it's completely protected so you can just go and explore.”

Ithaca Lick Brook Sweedler Preserve New York

There are many ways to support the mission of the Finger Lakes Land Trust. “Definitely become a member. Membership in the Land Trust is $35, a very small amount. We're a member supported organization, so more than 80% of our operating funds come from regular people who contribute and believe in what we do.” They also have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, where you can go and get your hands dirty, do a little trail building, pull invasive species, and much more.

While closing out our conversation, Kelly easily describes Ithaca in one word. “Home.” It comes so quickly, there’s not even an explanation needed.

To become a member, sign up to volunteer, or join their email list, head on over to Finger Lakes Land Trust.

Follow along in Instagram.

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