The Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium (FLM&A) was one of 10 applicants to be awarded a Trees for Tribs Grant through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The Trees for Tribs Grant program supports efforts to reforest New York’s tributaries, or small creeks and streams, which flow into and feed larger rivers and lakes.The program supports communities in planting young trees and shrubs along stream corridors, also known as riparian areas, to prevent erosion, increase flood water retention, improve wildlife and stream habitat, as well as protect water quality. 

The FLM& A project, called the Sugar Creek Restoration Project, will improve wildlife habitat, water quality, and climate resiliency along Sugar Creek, a main tributary to Keuka Lake, by planting riparian trees and shrubs on the banks of three neighboring properties, owned by the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium, Izaak Walton League, and Branchport/ Keuka Park Fire Department. The FLM&A was granted $38,000 to complete this project in 2 years.

Approximately 3,160 native trees & shrubs, all grown from NYS-sourced seed, will be planted on roughly 13-acres along Sugar Creek. The plantings will be done by community volunteers, under the direction of the Finger Lakes Museum & Aquarium, and approved by a DEC Forester. Plantings will follow NYS DEC guidelines, which include the use of tree tubes, stakes, weed mats, and wire cages, to ensure the plants have the best chance of surviving. The FLM&A will coordinate and oversee a 2-year long maintenance plan for the plantings, using guidelines set forth by the NYS DEC, that include regular monitoring and reports, photographic documentation, and watering.

Located in Branchport on the northwest fork of Keuka Lake, the FLM&A’s 29-acre site encompasses a 16-acre wetland/preserve — known as the Townsend-Grady Wildlife Preserve — and a 13-acre former school campus.  The campus includes a 17,000 square foot building currently under renovation, several green infrastructure elements (Bioswale, a riparian buffer zone, turf pavers, and porous pavement parking lots), a large reclaimed meadow, a kayak and canoe livery known as the Creekside Center, three timber frame lean-tos for outdoor programming, and an ADA-accessible hand-carry launch/dock. Sugar Creek borders the east side of the museum campus, and the west side the Townsend Grady Wildlife Preserve, before emptying into Keuka Lake.

In 2014, the FLM&A became steward to 16-acres of wetlands with 100 feet of lakefront on the northwestern fork of Keuka Lake. Known as the Townsend-Grady Wildlife Preserve, these wetlands have served as a natural water filtration system to Keuka Lake watershed for thousands of years, most recently filtering over 160 square miles of agricultural and residential runoff. The Preserve contains two wetlands; the more traditional emergent classification (where one would expect to see cattails, lichens, and mosses), and a more forested wetland.  

FLM&A staff and volunteers have begun work on building over 5,000 feet of trails, boardwalks, bog bridges, viewing platforms, interpretive signage, a timber frame pavilion, and various nesting platforms and boxes for wildlife in the preserve. 

Contact the FLM&A at 315-595-2200 to volunteer for the Sugar Creek Restoration Project.