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For Release: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

DEC Announces Start of Construction of $1.25 Million Project to Improve Access at Carpenter Falls Unique Area

Project Enhances Safety and Recreation Opportunities for Visitors of All Abilities

Site Closed during Construction

Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the start of construction on a $1.25 million project to improve public access at Carpenter Falls Unique Area in the town of Niles, Cayuga County. To ensure public safety, the site will remain closed for the duration of construction, which is expected to be completed in 2022.

"DEC is thrilled this project, which will create more opportunities for visitors of all abilities to safely view Carpenter Falls, is underway," said Commissioner Seggos. "In addition to improving public access at this special place, DEC designed these new features and upgrades to help reduce long-term environmental impacts to the area and protect water quality in Skaneateles Lake, a popular recreation destination and the source of drinking water for the city of Syracuse and surrounding areas."

Carpenter Falls Unique Area contains dramatic steep terrain and waterfalls. The 37-acre property was conveyed to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in 2008 by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. The project is being undertaken in two phases and includes enhancements to ensure safe and convenient access to the site's popular waterfalls supported by $1,250,000 from the State's Environmental Protection Fund. All-new Phase 1 improvements include:

  • New on-site paved parking lot for 20 single vehicles, designed with green infrastructure to manage stormwater;
  • Bicycle rack to accommodate cyclists;
  • Accessible commercial chemical toilet with a screened enclosure near the parking area;
  • New elevated boardwalk accessible to visitors of all abilities, leading 630 feet from the parking lot to an observation platform;
  • Accessible observation platform where visitors can enjoy a view of the 90-foot-tall Upper Carpenter Falls; and
  • A new trail with stone steps to safely guide hikers down a steep ravine to view Upper Carpenter Falls from a unique, stream-level vantage.

In addition to the new accessibility features, the elevated boardwalk and stone steps will protect sensitive soil and vegetation from destruction and erosion sometimes caused by pedestrian traffic on the site's steep slopes, which will also help safeguard water quality in Bear Swamp Creek and Skaneateles Lake. DEC encouraged public input during the design process, including a comment period with public information sessions held in August 2019, and the comments received influenced the final project design. Phase 2 of the project will address access to the Lower Falls, including the repair and improvement of an existing foot trail.

During construction, visitors are encouraged to explore the many other picturesque and noteworthy public lands in Central New York.

New York State's Environmental Protection Fund has grown from its original appropriation of $31 million in fiscal year 1994-1995 to $300 million. The Fiscal Year 2022 Enacted Budget sustains the EPF at $300 million, the highest level of funding in the program's history. Appropriations include $40 million for solid waste programs, $90 million for parks and recreation, $151 million for open space programs and $19 million for the climate change mitigation and adaptation program. This investment will provide funding for critical environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.

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