Land trusts to get $300K in funding

LOWVILLE — Three north country land trusts were awarded grant funding through the state Conservation Partnership Program.

The Tug Hill Tomorrow Land Trust, Thousand Islands Land Trust and the OBI Land Trust will be receiving a total of about $300,000 in grant support from the program administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation and Land Trust Alliance.

Tug Hill Tomorrow, based in Watertown, was approved the maximum grant amount possible through the program, $100,000, to be used to fund a new staff member hired for programs in the southern half of the Tug Hill region in Oneida County, according to the land trust’s executive director, Linda A. Garrett.

“This is a three-year grant to support a staff person ... who is doing land protection and education work in the southern part of our area because with all the travel time, I thought we could get more done if we had someone living down in those communities,” Ms. Garrett said.

A $15,700 “transactional grant” was also awarded to Tug Hill Tomorrow to reimburse the land trust for its investment into conservation easements on 383 acres in Oneida County on two farms on adjoining properties.

The Thousand Islands Land Trust, based in Clayton, will receive a $98,050 grant to improve the Sissy Danforth Rivergate Trail, including the addition of a wetland observation tower, viewing platforms, benches, brochures and trail resurfacing.

The trail is a seven-mile stretch for hiking and biking from Clayton to LaFargeville on the bed of the old New York Central Railroad tracks, according to Thousand Island’s Assistant Director Spencer T. Busler. It is a project that has been ongoing for the past 25 years and continues to evolve.

A second grant, for $50,000, was awarded for the interactive exhibits at the Thousand Island Land Trust’s new Discovery Center on the first floor of its office on John Street facing River Walk.

Director of Development and Communications Terra L. Bach said the exhibits will include touch screens with videos and a water exhibit “about water quality to connect healthy land to healthy water.” The cultural and historical connections to the land preserves will also be showcased at the center.

“There’s nothing like it (the Discovery Center) in this community so we’re excited to be able to communicate our mission in one place,” Ms. Bach said. “The whole idea behind it is really to inspire people — to have people come in and visit and be inspired to go back outside and experience the outdoors.”

The Discovery Center is slated for launch in 2023.

The 184-acre Downybrook Nature Reserve in the town of Brownville will get a new parking area and an accessible nature viewing deck with the $35,782 grant secured by OBI Land Trust in Chaumont.

OBI Land Trust — which started as the Ontario Bays Initiative — has preserved about 800 acres of land including a wildlife reserve and 1,700 feet of nearly extinct undeveloped shoreline in Henderson Harbor, according to the organization’s website.

The north country winners were among 51 recipient land trusts statewide that will receive $3.375 million combined. They were announced by Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul at a press conference during the state’s Earth Week events.

Eighty grants were funded through the program, which is part of the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. The grants, which required the land trusts to provide “matching funds” from other sources, leveraged an additional $2.7 million in those matching funds for water quality, open space and land protection and to increase outdoor recreation opportunities, according to the DEC news release on the grants.

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