Hemlock & Canadice: The Last Two Undeveloped Finger Lakes Face Possible Development

Reporting directly from Hemlock, New York - The Finger Lakes Region
By Phaedo from the Land of Whiskey and Pumpkin Pie
December 17, 2006

“Recent developments make an all-encompassing crisis plain to see. Society could scarcely be more bizarrely unhealthy, but is getting even more so all the time.” -John Zerzan, How Ruinous Does It Have To Get?

This mourning I woke up and I happily sleepy eyed looked out the window upon Conesus Lake. It was lovely with some whips of fog rising slowly over the waters. Later I traversed back to Hemlock and was a bit surprised to find an article about Hemlock and Canadice Lake on the front page of the Democrat and Chronicle - a popular Rochester newspaper. I was a bit shocked by what I found in the article and after thinking about it for a while, I’ve decided to write this article.

For the past 23 years I have lived in Hemlock - perhaps I will still live here in the future. The surrounding environment is absolutely stunning and it makes for an experience to not soon be forgotten. Within an average 10 minute drive (or better yet timeless bike ride!) from my residence I can access four different Finger Lakes - Hemlock, Canadice, Conesus, and Honeoye. Honeoye and Conesus Lake have private property landowners along there shores, but Canadice and Hemlock Lake are both undeveloped and instead owned by the city of Rochester. For the most part these two lakes are open to the public. Venturing down to Hemlock or Canadice makes for some pretty rugged wild adventures into the woods where the bears hibernate and the bald eagles soar. Sometimes late at night I can hear the coyotes howling at the moon. The two lakes are magical spots that have magnificent ancient histories surrounding them, including but not limited to being one of the largest tracts of old growth forest in North Eastern America, located along the shores of Hemlock Lake. Some of the trees along Hemlock Lake date back 400 to 500 years (and possibly more, thus making it one of the largest and most unique old growth forests in all of North Eastern America. Trees that existed long before the foundation of the United States of America and what came to be known as Hemlock.

Among the magik; 15 years ago the only place to find a nesting pair of bald eagles in New York State was in these old growth forests at Hemlock Lake. With this protection the birds were able to survive and now one is able to find many more nesting bald eagles in the area. I’ve been lucky enough to witness these giant birds of prey swoop down over my head as I watched in awe. This is only one of the great things that has happened and is currently happening in and around the Hemlock and Canadice region.

The two lakes have some strict regulations surrounding them legally. For instance, certain areas of the two lakes have restricted access, permitting no one except the city of Rochester. You are also not allowed to take a boat over 16' feet in length; canoes 17' feet in length or boat motors that exceed 10 horsepower. Some more laws include not being able to swim in the lakes, even though it is extremely tempting on those lovely summer days. A little tip, if you want to go swimming on those hot summer days or just do some polar bear club during the middle of winter, it would be best to go to where the swimming is allowed - such as Reynolds Gull. Lower Reynolds Gull is also owned by the city of Rochester and is public property, where swimming is allowed in the cool waters that rush down the three enormous waterfalls. Unfortunately, the three waterfalls are all on private land and access is only allowed by permission from theowner, but you can still take a dip in the refreshing waters that help fill Hemlock Lake by visiting the smaller pools and falls of lower Reynolds Gull.

Hopefully, I’m drawing a clear enough picture for you to realize how important these two places are to our civilization. Hemlock and Canadice are two Upstate, New York towns that hold part of the key to our collective future. Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake should remain forever wild and the surrounding community should be able to directly participate in the decisions that most effect their lives, such as the preservation of this eco-system in their backyard. The old growth forest should remain and no one should be allowed to profit from these natural resources that we are so welcome to have in our back yard. We need to support our local communities and realize how important the wilderness is, along with rural towns and the part they play. The Finger Lakes region of Upstate, NY along with the Great Lakes make for one of the highest, if not the highest concentrations of fresh water in the entire world and we need to protect these natural resources from further development along with promoting a more sustainable lifestyle. Otherwise, I hate to say it, but we are really in trouble as a civilization; for I believe that we need to make drastic changes in order to have a sustainable future on this planet.

In The Forest Beyond the Field: The Consequences of Domestication
by Kevin Tucker it states that:
Its gets harder and harder to imagine a world different from the one we are born an raised into. It gets harder to imagine that the way people interact now is not how humans have always been. So we give in. We accept this reality as our only reality. We accept that humans have a natural inclination to take action at the expense of each other and at the expense of the world at large. We try to make the best of our time and that is that. Some of us turn to god, some turn to politics, some turn to sedatives (electronic or chemical); we turn anywhere that we can find some break from the dry, inhuman condition that drowns us.
Let us get back to our roots. Let us get back to our roots. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Democrat and Chronicle published an article today about Hemlock and Canadice Lake on the front page of the Sunday edition. I’m pleased to see the attention given to this dire issue and I also thought that it was a very informative, well written article. Although, one critique I have of the article is that the authors either forgot or didn’t bother to mention anything about the old growth forest on Hemlock Lake in their notes about the area. To have not mentioned this large tract of land that could be worth millions and millions of dollars to loggers and instead resort to solely mentioning that private interests are indeed interested in the area seemed a bit light. I’m no insider, but I think that one of the main interest groups in the development of Hemlock, may actually be the logging companies that could stand to profit millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the history of Hemlock, a name that was given to the town due to the large amount of logging that took place there, may repeat itself, in a vicious cycle. From the very foundation of the United States of America, a war has been waged upon Hemlock. This can be seen from the fact that George Washington, the beloved first President of the United States ordered the attack of the native population of the area by giving permission to General Sullivan to go on the offensive.

The 1779 Sullivan Campaign emerged as one of the larger of the Continental Army's offensives during the American Revolution, yet remains relatively unknown. It was an act of reprisal to break the Iroquois Confederation, a Native American political and military alliance that included the Seneca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, 0neida, and Tuscarora tribes. The Iroquois, with the exception of the Oneida and Tuscarora, openly sided with Great Britain to protect their homelands.

Sullivan’s Campaign marched right through what is now known as Hemlock, with some solider’s supposedly burying great treasure amongst the hills of Hemlock. Skipping over the last 300 years or so, we go into a fast forward motion to the present, where we hear from the Democrat and Chronicle that “the Monroe County Water Authority and the city of Rochester, are about to begin discussions that could lead to a radical restructuring” which could lead to a possible ownership change for Hemlock and Canadice Lake. Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy wants to permanently preserve the land which encompasses the two lakes, but has also not ruled out the possibility of development. Rumors are also around that some folks would like to develop the land and although the specific groups are not mentioned in the article it seems that one of the prime prospects for making a profit off of Hemlock Lake could come from logging companies. Logging of the trees surrounding Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake should stop immediately and measures should be taken at all costs, in order to preserve the two areas from further encroachment and destruction.

It has been stated that years ago, the city of Rochester made $5 to $7 million dollars a year in profits from the water system. This money was later stated to be pumped back into the city of Rochester and its surrounding projects. I’m unaware of the exact details, but it seems like Hemlock and Canadice have been excluded from a share of the profits, even though they are the main sources of the resource, these towns have not seen their fair share of mutual aid. This is not to say that Hemlock and Canadice should be developed industrially, but that there are more positive community projects to put the money towards that could change the situation, by even the smallest donation. Coming from someone outside the government, it seems like this is just another example of our overly bureaucratic government at work. Supposedly, in 1996 and 2002 the Water Authority offered $88 million plus debt payments towards the water system that encompasses Hemlock and Canadice Lake. How much would you pay to have these two lakes forever preserved? I know, that if I had that much money (which I don’t), I would surely put it on the table in order to protect the area from development, so please cough it up - money bags. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot more money will be needed in order to buy this piece of property - even though it was stolen from the original inhabitants, being exactly those who lived here before what is now known as America existed.

We can only hope in our hearts that the decision process, which seems to be taking place behind closed doors (sound familiar? It’s democracy at work) realizes the importance of protecting and preserving Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake. It is extremely saddening to see profits drive a majority of folks to the ends, in sole attempt to survive - we need to change the way we live in order to circumvent this possibility.

Let us meet our neighbors and talk about our lives. We don’t need bulldozers and trucks in order to create something new, all we need is ourselves and the idea that we can raise this barn together, as a community.


You also might want to read these related articles:

Hemlock Lake: An Unequivocal Exclamation By Phaedo of the Land of Whiskey and
Pumpkin Pie

Pitting lakes vs. water needs By the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester


Rochester IMC said...

Hey there from Rochester Indymedia!

We'd like to feature this but would like to know a few things:

1) Who wrote the article?

2) Are there any environmental groups getting involved in this?

3) When are the meetings scheduled?

My apologies if these are answered in the blog. I'm just getting into reading it.

Ted from Rochester Indymedia.

Feel free to contact me: Knight0440@yahoo.com

NYCO said...

Would ecotourism help these lakes?

I'm thinking of how wildly successful the Seneca White Deer tour was this past fall. People are especially eager to tour areas they think are normally hard to get to or off limits. There is a certain perception (at least among people I know) that Canadice is off-limits or has restricted access.

Phaedo 3.14 said...

Good evening,,,

To answer some questions from the Rochester Indy Media:

I'm not sure if their are any groups directly involved, but I'm pretty sure that the Nature Conservatory is. I sent them a letter over the summer about the old growth forest, but they never replied. It also says in the above mentioned Democrat and Chronicle article that the Nature Conservatory might be involved.

The Sierra Club might also be involved. I believe I also sent them a letter over the summer that was not answered. http://newyork.sierraclub.org/rochester/hemlock_trees.htm

Let us hope that the folks from these groups are reading this right now and can hopefully expound upon my answer to what might be some courses of action to take that they recommend.

Unfortunately, I don't know when the meetings are - as stated in the above Democrat and Chronicle article - the meeting will be held behind doors... But, I would love to find out.

I hope I've answered all of your questions. I'm sorry I can't help you much more than that, it's sad that we here living in Hemlock and the surrounding communities know so little about what is going on in our backyard.

Hopefully, we can dig up some more information on this in the future.

As for the second question, from NYCO: I'm not a big fan of bringing yuppies into the woods, but perhaps I'm being a little harsh. Eco-tourism is an interesting idea and I guess to weigh in on it fully I would have to know a little more about the specifics- perhaps it is not as yuppie as I believe. I think that if we are really concerned about protecting these woods, we should not be aiming to bring in tourists, but rather give our focus and attention to preventing capital from destroying these woods. I'm not against visiting these areas, but I do hate rich tourists. I suppose eco-tourism could be a good possibility though, if it was designed correctly.

Hmmm.... on the Seneca Army Depot. Well, I think it is just a perfect example of how we can literally change the environment and then promote eco-tourism off of this destruction in order to garner capital. The Seneca Army Depot was one of the largest silos of nuclear warheads during the Cold War. Someone close to me, was once asked to go and hunt these white deer, invited - but declined. I don't think they are white due to natural reasons, but rather because of the extremely large doses of pollution that existed there and probably still do in small amounts. I'd rather not pay money in order to see some animals that have been changed because of pollution and our military industrial complex...
I'd rather see places like that never exist, but now that they are here - what can we do? (p.s. sometimes i read your blog, it can be pretty good, keep up the muckraking).

Phaedo from the Land of Whiskey and Pumpkin 3.14

Rochester Indymedia said...

Hey Phaedo,

Thanks for the info.

Rochester IMC recently published a feature of WTD's article. Feel free to check it out.

If anyone knows when these meetings are happening please post it! I was talking to someone today who said tomorrow (This Thursday) might be the day that a presentation may be going on. I don't know what time or where though.

Again, if anyone has any info on what people can do to put the kibosh on the possibility of development happening around these lakes please post.


Ted from Rochester IMC

Bill said...

Bear Swim Jan 1 2007
I'm currently working in Iraq. I grew up in Syracuse, and always did the Polar Bear Swim on January 1st in or around Owasco lake. I'm flying in to Syracuse for New Years, and really want to do the polar bear swim this year. Can anyone tell me if there's a web site, meeting place, etc? Thanks, Bill

Anonymous said...

The Coalition for Hemlock and Canadice Lakes is a non-for-profit organization specifically geared towards permanent preservation of these Little Lakes. Their Chair person is Steve Lewandowski and Tom Ryther is the City Field Rep. Three months new to the Coalition, I am the Watershed Field Rep and live on Stagecoach Road in the Town of Sparta. The three of us volunteer our time and efforts.

There was an Appeal to preserve (petitioning) drive which began in May and ran through the middle of July. It was mostly for groups of people to sign, like businesses, clubs, organizations ... over 130 signers!

Out of the four towns, Conesus, Springwater, and Livonia signed onto our Appeal. The Town of Canadice submitted their own words of support as well as the Monroe County Water Authority.

We have lots of Lakes supporters; West's Shur Fine, Conesus Lake Hotel, Guenther's Performance, Animal Care Facility of Livonia, Remax, Smith Lumber, Minnehan's, Tee & Gee Rest, Leisure's Rest, Finger Lakes Flooring, Lakeville Family Rest, Dick Kraft Real Estate, Genesee Valley Conservancy, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Conesus Lakes Assoc Inc, New York Ornithological Society, Springwater Rod & Gun Club, Honeoye Fish & Game Club, Finger Lakes Institute, American Eagle Foundation, Future Forest Consulting Inc, ... the list goes on.

461 individuals signed.

Sierra Club, previously urging a state takeover without any fund transfer to Rochester, did not sign onto our Appeal. The Nature Conservancy did not sign on.

As of this writing, and to the best of my knowledge, no deal has been struck between the City of Rochester and the State of New York.

If anyone is interested in more info, I can be reached at the e-address and phone numbers below, or you can call the Coalition office and speak with Steve, our Chair. His e-mail address is stachu14512@yahoo.com and office number is (585)394-5030. The Coalition for Hemlock & Canadice Lakes'address is PO Box 394, Canandaigua, NY 14424.

Does this help?

Karen Schreiner
Watershed Field Rep
Coalition for Hemlock & Canadice Lakes

My contact info: