FLLT Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve opens

Finger Lakes Land Trust
Canandaigua Town Manager Doug Finch, FLLT board president Dave Birchenough, State Senator Pam Helming, volunteer Marty Dodge, landowners Duannah Barnum and Suzie Underhill, and FLLT Executive Director Andy Zepp at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve.

CANANDAIGUA LAKE — The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT)  has formally opened its 90-acre Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve in the town of Canandaigua, Ontario County. On Friday, Oct. 1, New York State Senator Pamela Helming, Canandaigua Town Manager Doug Finch, and other local officials joined FLLT staff and volunteers for a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a guided hike on the preserve.

The Finger Lakes Land Trust (FLLT) has formally opened its 90-acre Canandaigua Vista Nature Preserve in the town of Canandaigua. [PHOTO PROVIDED/BILL HECHT]

Just a short drive from downtown Canandaigua, the preserve features a one-mile loop trail that traverses fields, oak-hickory forests, and past the head of Barnes Gully — a deep gorge that flows to nearby Onanda Park. Multiple vista points, each with a handmade bench carved from locally harvested timber, offer glimpses of Canandaigua Lake.

In 2019, the Land Trust launched an extensive fundraising campaign to purchase the 90 acres and create the preserve. These scenic hillsides were owned by two sisters, Duannah Barnum and Suzie Underhill, whose family once managed the land as a dairy farm. For many years, an existing trail network was maintained by neighbor Marty Dodge—a retired Finger Lakes Community College conservation instructor who has been a strong advocate for conserving the property. After securing the land in 2020, Land Trust staff worked with volunteers and contractors to improve the trail system and install an interpretive kiosk and parking area.

The preserve is open during daylight hours for quiet nature observation and low impact recreation such as walking, hiking, and snowshoeing. Hikers must stay on marked trails to minimize disturbance of native plants and wildlife and to avoid hazards. From October 1- December 21, bow hunters will be on the preserve in locations that are at least 150 feet from the marked hiking trail. The trail will remain open to the public. A map, directions, and additional information about the new preserve can be found at fllt.org/vista.

In late September, the FLLT also opened its 18-acre Canandaigua Highlands Overlook in Naples, Ontario County. From atop a hillside meadow, the overlook features breathtaking views of the south end of Canandaigua Lake and the West River Valley. The FLLT purchased the property in 2016 and completed several habitat restoration efforts and site improvements including the removal of non-native invasive shrubs and the remnants of an old vineyard. A small parking area and bench now welcome visitors to the overlook during daylight hours. More information can be found at fllt.org/overlook.

By working cooperatively with landowners and local communities, the Finger Lakes Land Trust has protected over 27,0000 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 164 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