Museum programs come to Keuka

Staff reports
Bald eagles are becoming a more common sight locally. Jacob Wilmott spotted this one near Waneta Lake last week. An upcoming program, Back From the Brink, presented by the Finger Lakes Museum at Keuka College, will present details about the raptor’s return to the Finger?Lakes.

Keuka College is the setting for programs on a Finger Lakes success story relating how two lakes came to be permanently protected and the rescue of the bald eagle.

“Back From the Brink: The Story of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes,” the inaugural program of the Finger Lakes Museum in Branchport, will be presented in three parts at Keuka College.

Attendees will go on a journey spanning 150 years as experts trace the history of Canadice and Hemlock lakes, the rescue of the Bald Eagle and the permanent protection of the lakes for all to enjoy.

The series includes three programs, which will be presented July 2, 14 and 28 at Keuka College. The series, which also will be presented Aug. 6 and 18 and Sept. 1 at the Finger Lakes Wine Center in Ithaca, is open to the public and pre-registration is requested at or call 315-595-2200. Admission is free and donations are welcome.

In addition, family-oriented outdoor events such as a lake paddle, hiking and nature journaling also are being offered.

The Finger Lakes Museum has selected Keuka Lake State Park as the site for a world-class museum that is planned to showcase the cultural and natural history of the 9,000-square-mile Finger Lakes Region.

John Adamski, chairman of the Museum, summarized the focus of the programs: “Learn how these two lakes evolved to become wild and undeveloped; how America’s bald eagle was saved from the brink of extinction, beginning at Hemlock Lake; and how inspiring community action, spanning more than a century, has protected both lakes, so they now offer visitors a glimpse of the past when all the Finger Lakes were wild.”

In July 2010, the State of New York completed a landmark conservation agreement with the City of Rochester and the Nature Conservancy by purchasing Hemlock and Canadice Lakes and nearly 7,000 surrounding acres, creating the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. These lakes, the last two undeveloped Finger Lakes, are now wild, evermore.  

“This was, without a doubt, the most important land acquisition project the state has undertaken outside of the Adirondack and Catskill Parks in more than a generation,” proclaimed Pete Grannis, then commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Part I: Back From?Extinction

The series will kick off with Part I, From the Brink of Extinction: The Bald Eagles of Hemlock and Canadice, at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 2, in the Lightner Library at Keuka College.

State DEC eagle expert Mike Allen will relate one of North America’s most successful conservation stories, which began in the Finger Lakes. Allen will have on hand a magnificent rehabilitated bald eagle, Liberty.

In 1965, the last remaining pair of bald eagles in the state built a nest in an 80-foot tree at the south end of Hemlock Lake. Tom Rauber, an amateur naturalist and utility lineman, discovered the nest and spent the next 27 years observing and photographing the eagles. He teamed up with Allen in the mid-1970s.

Allen will explain how the bald eagle population has grown to more than 200 nest territories statewide.  The bald eagle, which is the chosen icon for the Finger Lakes Museum, is a sentinel or indicator species, sensitive to the living conditions in a particular habitat.

Part II: Blue Blood to Blue Water

In Part II, Blue Blood to Blue Water: From Cottages, Hotels & Steamboats to Drinking Water for Rochester, Lima Town Historian Douglas Morgan will tell the story of early cottage life and the people who came to both Hemlock and Canadice Lakes for recreation and entertainment. Part II takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14, in the Lightner Library at Keuka College.

Morgan uses antique photographs to relate tales of the local lake, Canadice, and the blueblood lake, Hemlock, where wealthy Rochesterians summered. At its peak in the 1890s, five hotels thrived on Hemlock Lake, and steamboats traveled back and forth to serve summer residents and tourists.  In the mid-1800s, a deadly water-born cholera outbreak ravaged Rochester. Unable to completely eradicate the disease from its cisterns and wells, the city looked south to Hemlock and Canadice Lakes for clean and reliable water.

Part III:?Lakes Go Wild

Lakes Go Wild: Permanent Protection of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes is the topic of Part III at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 28, in Lightner Library at Keuka College.

The story of how watershed protection in the area started in the 1890s and culminated in 2010 with the creation of the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest will be told by Jim Howe, executive director of the Central & Western New York Nature Conservancy; Don Root, former Hemlock-Canadice watershed conservationist; Steve Lewandowski of the Coalition for Hemlock and Canadice; and Paul D’Amato, regional director of the state DEC Region 8.

A new hotel was proposed on Hemlock Lake in the late 1800s, which prompted the City of Rochester to begin acquiring properties to protect its water supply. By 1950, all shoreline property and 7,000 acres around the lakes were acquired. Hotels and cottages were removed, agricultural land was reforested and development was prohibited.

By the 1980s, when Rochester was required to build a water treatment plant, it was feared the city no longer would need the protected lands.  

The public voiced support for keeping the lakes untouched, and a new coalition to preserve the lakes was born.  

After a century of community effort, these two lakes will remain the way they are - wild and undeveloped.

Adamski urges people to “join us to hear one or all three of these stories. See the beauty of our lakes, landscapes, wildlife, and people through the lens of premier Finger Lakes photographers featured in each program and begin to imagine the future Finger Lakes Museum experience.”   

A nesting pair of eagles.