Fundraising goal reached to purchase College Lodge Forest
The Western New York Land Conservancy and the Friends of the College Lodge Forest announced Tuesday that the community has matched the challenge gift, allowing it to reach the fundraising goal to preserve the College Lodge Forest.
Located near Fredonia, the forest has served as a popular community gathering place for Chautauqua County residents, and once formally purchased, the grounds will be under permanent protection.
The Land Conservancy and the Friends of the College Lodge Forest, over the past handful of years, has held a fundraiser to conserve the property, which was originally purchased in 1939 by SUNY Fredonia students in order to emphasize outdoor health.
The land has since been used as a learning ground for thousands of teachers, researchers, students, and the community as a whole.
The property has been owned by the Faculty Student Association since 1969.
“The College Lodge Forest is a jewel,” said parks commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “For decades, its well-maintained trail system has provided Western New Yorkers as well as SUNY Fredonia students and faculty with a place to both appreciate and study nature. Protecting this forest is a win for New Yorkers of all ages and backgrounds who are eager to explore all that our great state has to offer.”
On top of being a place for people, the College Lodge Forest hosts an immensely diverse array of wildlife. It is a pristine wetland with carnivorous plants, old-growth trees, and unique native orchids, in addition to being a migratory bird corridor, which earned it a grant from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is happy to support the conservation of the College Lodge property under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, through our Joint Venture habitat grant program,” said Wendi Weber, Regional Director for the North Atlantic-Appalachian Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Just 4.5 miles from Lake Erie, the tract provides important stopover habitat for migratory birds during spring and fall migration, and a mosaic of interior forest and wetland habitats used for breeding and wintering by many different wildlife species. The area also provides valuable opportunities to connect people to nature, as it has long been used for birdwatching, hiking, and other outdoor recreation.”
The Land Conservancy is entering the final stages of officially purchasing the Forest, and are expected to gain ownership in the beginning stages of this year. Once official, the Land Conservancy will keep College Lodge Forest open year-round as a publicly accessible nature preserve, and will continue to maintain miles of hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski trails. The FSA will continue to own and operate the lodge and 33 acres that surround it, using the funds from the sale to operate the lodge on it’s share of the property.
The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for current and future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which open spaces, working lands, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is one of 1,000-plus land trusts nationwide, including 87 in New York State. Land trusts have protected over 56 million acres of land.