"This is a one of a kind property," Zepp said. "It's 3,400 feet of shoreline. Nut Ridge Road does not come to the shoreline but it comes pretty close. There is tremendous potential for providing access. If the old rail grade, which is no longer active north of Milliken Station, provides a path along the trail that's actually used by neighbors today. We think it could be an incredible resource for the community."
When NYSEG sold the Milliken Station power plant to AES they retained the 490 acres with the intention of building the Bell Station Nuclear Plant there. In 1969 the Tompkins County Board of Supervisors approved the plant. The $320 million plant was fiercely opposed by a Trumansburg group in 1973. A 2,436,000kw reator was planned to produce a net 838,000kw of power. The plant was never built.
The property is half wooded, and half leased farm land. For a number of years NYSEG and DEC managed a cooperative hunting program on the property until two years ago. Groups from around the region and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) identified the property as a significant natural resource that was worthy of protection. The State agreed. Based on it's natural resource values, its value to the lake and its recreational potential this was identified by DEC as a priority project in the state Open Space program.
Zepp says the State has said they endorse the idea, but there is no timeline. He said that the project will probably never happen without nudging the state to act. That nudging is the facilitation role the Land trust has taken on. The first step is to get Town Board approval of a resolution supporting the project, and next Zepp said he plans to approach Senator Michael Nozzolio to work on finding funding within the State to allow the DEC to purchase the land.
After that the Land Trust will be involved in working out how the property will be managed. With limited funding and personnel on the state level the DEC often partners with local municipalities. Lansing already has such an arrangement regarding Salt Point.
Salt Point, a spit of land adjacent to Myers Park, housed the Cayuga Salt Company from 1891 through 1962. After a fire in 1962 the plant was bulldozed and the debris was spread across the site. New York State purchased the land in the 1960s, but the DEC didn't have the manpower to manage the site. Activity was unregulated there until 2006, when the Town Of Lansing signed a 50 year lease with the DEC to manage it. Known as UC Point (after Utica Club beer) because people went there to drink, it was the scene of frequent crimes. Dirt roads pocked the property, and it was marred by litter, bonfire remains, and used by some as a dump.
Since Lansing began managing the property it has been cleaned up considerably with a perimeter road and a non-motorized boat launching site added. Trash and pot hole-marred dirt roads have been removed. A parking lot was restored near the entrance to the park. The Land Trust plan would result in a similar kind of arrangement either with Tompkins County and/or the Town of Lansing.
"We don't think DEC alone should have the burden or responsibility," Zepp said. "It's an agency that does not have robust staff these days. This is the largest single piece of privately owned real estate bordering the Finger Lakes. The potential is for the DEC to acquire the land to establish a public conservation area. Typically that would involve hunting and fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, some level of shoreline access for small boats. We think this is a good idea."
Board members have visited the property, and the Town will consider approving a resolution supporting the project.