Finger Lakes Museum starts programs

John Christensen
Finger Lakes Museum Project Director Don Naetzker talks about the Museum's progress.

Finger Lakes Museum representatives invited many of the museum stakeholders, donors, local and state officials to a launch party at Esperanza Mansion June 2 to celebrate the beginning of the museum’s first educational program.

“Back From the Brink: The Story of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes,” was presented June 4 at the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

This, the inaugural program of the Finger Lakes Museum, takes it from the planning stage into reality. The museum now exists in its truest function, albeit in borrowed venues.

The programs will take attendees 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 continued June 16 and 23 at the Rochester Museum & Science Center, and repeated on July 2, 14 and 28 at Keuka College and Aug. 6 and 18 and Sept. 1 at the Finger Lakes Wine Center in Ithaca.

The series 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 lake paddles, hiking and a plant and folklore walk also are being offered.

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.

From the Brink

The series will kick off with Part I, From the Brink of Extinction: The Bald Eagles of Hemlock and Canadice. 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 even have on hand at the program a magnificent rehabilitated bald eagle, Liberty.

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. Their presence is testimony to the pristine Hemlock-Canadice ecosystem.

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 will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 16, at Eisenhart Auditorium of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, 657 East Ave., Rochester.

Morgan will use antique photographs from 1875 through 1945 to relate tales of the local lake, Canadice, and the blueblood lake, Hemlock, where wealthy Rochesterians summered.  

In the mid-1800s, a deadly water-born cholera outbreak ravaged the City of Rochester, which then looked south to Hemlock and Canadice Lakes for clean and reliable water.  

Lakes Go Wild

Part III is Lakes Go Wild: Permanent Protection of Hemlock and Canadice Lakes  at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 23, in Eisenhart Auditorium.

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 NY 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.

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

Adamski urged 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.”

Museum officials are also planning outdoor events where people can live and breathe the stories presented in the program.

The events begin this Saturday, June 11 with Medicinal Plant and Folk Lore Walk. Herbalists Andrea and Matthias Reisen of Healing Spirits Farm in Avoca will teach fellow walkers about the historic use of native plants that still hold lessons in health and well-being.

They also will talk about how the early settlers of this region and the Native people before them used our diverse plant life for healing and medicine.The talk will be held from  10 to 11:30 a.m. at Keuka Lake State Park.

There is no group limit, the fee is $12 per person and reservations are required.

Other events held this summer include paddling Canadice and Hemlock Lakes, hiking Rob’s Trail with the Nature Conservancy, nature journaling at Keuka Lake State Park, and a presentation on invasive species of the Finger Lakes. Watch future event calendars for details.

John Adamski, president of the Finger Lakes Museum speaks.