Ithaca, NY— The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) today announced it has purchased the 480-acre Bell Station property, featuring 3,400 feet of pristine Cayuga Lake shoreline, from New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG). The property, located in the town of Lansing, Tompkins County, was the largest privately owned parcel of shoreline remaining in the Finger Lakes region.
Located on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, the Bell Station property features wooded hillsides overlooking the lake, extensive fields, and several small streams with cascading waterfalls. Acquisition of the site for conservation will greatly enhance public access to the east side of Cayuga Lake, which is 90% privately owned. Permanent conservation will also prevent residential development on the steep hillsides bordering the lake, helping to safeguard the lake’s water quality and prevent future harmful algal blooms.
For these reasons, the FLLT has been pursuing the conservation of the Bell Station property for a number of years. Its interest is shared by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Governor Kathy Hochul, the Town of Lansing, Tompkins County, and other key stakeholders. Thanks to the efforts of Governor Hochul, concerned citizens, and other support, NYSEG agreed to cancel a public auction scheduled for October of 2021, and enter into a purchase agreement with the FLLT.
Funding for the purchase came from a $2 million dollar loan from the Park Foundation, $500,000 raised from individual donations, and an internal loan from the FLLT’s Opportunity Fund. The FLLT plans to sell the lakeshore portion of the property to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to be managed for recreational uses including hiking, cross country skiing, wildlife watching, hunting, and fishing. In partnership with the Town of Lansing, the FLLT is also exploring the feasibility of utilizing 200 acres of the property for solar energy production.
The FLLT will formally open the Bell Station property to the public on an interim basis for low-impact recreation on Friday, June 10th. The public is invited to attend an open house from 2:00-4:00 p.m. Refreshments and guided hikes will be offered. Visit fllt.org/events for directions and more info.
To learn about the FLLT’s efforts to save Bell Station, including a short video, maps, and more, please visit fllt.org/savebellstation.
“This is a tremendous win for the region and everyone who loves the Finger Lakes,” said Finger Lakes Land Trust Executive Director Andrew Zepp. “The Bell Station project will help maintain Cayuga Lake’s water quality while providing new opportunities for outdoor recreation and the generation of renewable energy. We are grateful to Governor Kathy Hochul and all of our elected officials and community members who acted together to make this possible.”
Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “I congratulate the Finger Lakes Land Trust on its purchase of the Bell Station property and helping preserve this truly majestic slice of Finger Lakes shoreline. The leadership of Governor Kathy Hochul and many local public and private partners helped find a path forward to protect this land, and DEC is excited to continue working together to protect critical fish and wildlife habitats and increase recreational opportunities for New Yorkers.”
Senator Pam Helming said, “Congratulations to the Finger Lakes Land Trust on completing the purchase of the Bell Station property and thank you to Andy Zepp and his team for their continued commitment to conserving the land and waters of the Finger Lakes. This was a phenomenal team effort by so many, including FLLT, the residents and Town of Lansing and Supervisor Ed LaVigne, Tompkins County, local watershed organizations, the DEC, and NYSEG. Together we achieved an important win for the region. With enhanced public access to Cayuga Lake for recreational purposes and added safeguards to protect water quality, the preservation of this land ensures the area will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Assemblymember Anna Kelles said, "This is a huge win for our community. Congratulations to the Finger Lakes Land Trust and the coalition of local government officials, residents, the DEC, NYSEG, and Governor Hochul for working together to preserve this beautiful stretch of undeveloped land for future generations. I am thrilled that we were able to secure the preservation of 3,400 feet of pristine shoreline that is home to wooded hillsides, cascading waterfalls, critical bird habitat, and rare threatened plant species. Cayuga Lake is one of the last remaining fresh water reserves in the world. Preserving the forestlands will not only protect the lake from land erosion runoff and negative impacts of shoreline septic systems but will preserve the land for tourism and ecological education. I am especially grateful to Andy Zepp and his team at FLLT for their staunch commitment to preserve the natural environment and protect our ecosystems and habitats."
Carl A. Taylor, President and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E said, “NYSEG is pleased to officially transfer the Bell Station property to the Finger Lakes Land Trust. We applaud the efforts by all involved in ensuring the conservation and preservation of this incredible natural resource.”
Town of Lansing Supervisor Ed LaVigne said, “Congratulations to Andy Zepp and the staff at the Finger Lakes Land Trust for their hard work. The Town of Lansing is pleased with the purchase of this land. We look forward to continuing to work with the Land Trust and our local businesses to create positive results.”
Tompkins County Legislature Chairwoman Shawna Black said, “Conserving the Bell Station will have a big impact on our conservation efforts and public recreation. Thank you to FLLT, New York State, and NYSEG for making this happen. Tompkins County is grateful for our partners and their efforts. This a remarkable achievement for the public and I’m excited to visit the newly conserved land with my family. Finger Lakes families and visitors will be able to enjoy and experience more of our “gorges” Cayuga Lake shoreline for many years to come.”
By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 28,000 acres of the region’s undeveloped lakeshore, rugged gorges, rolling forest, and scenic farmland. The FLLT owns and manages a network of over 45 nature preserves that are open to the public and holds perpetual conservation easements on 170 properties that remain in private ownership.
The FLLT focuses on protecting critical habitat for fish and wildlife, conserving lands that are important for water quality, connecting existing conservation lands, and keeping prime farmland in agriculture. The organization also provides programs to educate local governments, landowners, and residents about conservation and the region’s unique natural resources.
Information on the region’s premier destinations for outdoor recreation may be found at www.gofingerlakes.org, a resource created by the FLLT to encourage people to get outdoors. Additional information about the Finger Lakes Land Trust may be found at http://www.fllt.org.