October 19, 2021

Access project proposed for Carpenter Falls in Niles

Inspired by nature

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Carpenter Falls Unique Area in Niles would be made to be more accessible to the public under improvements to the nearby parking lot and trails planned by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

NILES — Nature lovers may soon have easier access to Carpenter Falls Unique Area, if a proposed public-access project receives all necessary approvals.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation seeks to build a boardwalk, viewing platform and bridge that extends from the existing parking lot, among other changes.

“DEC is working across the state to improve access opportunities for all New Yorkers to get out and enjoy the amazing recreational opportunities that DEC provides,” said spokeswoman Lori Severino. “Through this important project, DEC is investing in improving, sustaining and enhancing public access to the Upper Falls for people of all abilities. In addition, these projects will also include environmental improvements to enhance the habitat of this unique area.”

“We support the states goal of providing for safe public access at Carpenter Falls,” said Andrew Zepp, executive director of the Finger Lakes Land Trust, which owns and manages the nearby 51-acre Bahar Nature Preserve. “Some public improvements are needed to ensure public safety.”

About Carpenter Falls

What: Carpenter Falls Unique Area Size: 37 acres
Location: Apple Tree Point Road, Niles
Features: A trail runs six-tenths of a mile across the property providing views of Bear Swamp Creek and two sets of waterfalls. The upper falls are located at the southwest end of the trail and the lower falls are located at the northeasterly end of the hiking trail. The trail connects with the Bahar Nature Preserve, which has another 1.6 miles of trails and access to a picturesque waterfall.
History: Carpenter Falls Unique Area was given to New York by the Finger Lakes Land Trust in 2008. It is adjacent to the trust’s 51-acre Bahar Nature Preserve.

The first phase of the proposed project would increase access to Upper Carpenter Falls for families and people with mobility issues by improving the parking area and building an access ramp, a foot bridge and a boardwalk to connect the parking area with the Upper Falls viewing platform.

The project would also add stone steps from the boardwalk to the viewing area at the bottom of the falls.

The second phase of the project would repair and improve the existing trail that connects Carpenter Falls Unique Area to the Bahar Preserve and build steps to the Lower Falls.

The project “will reduce the amount of tree cutting, soil grading and fill needed,” states a DEC Frequently Asked Questions file on the proposal. The agency is conducting a State Environmental Quality Review Act review of the proposal.

According to the FAQ, “at least a portion of the parking lot will be paved to welcome people with mobility impairments.” If the proposed project is approved, the state expects temporary closures during construction.

Zepp said details matter and the land trust would like the changes to be “appropriate to the scale” of the site.

But besides improving access to Carpenter Falls, Zepp said the DEC must consider “the increased need for staffing” due to increasing visits to the site, which he attributes to its rising popularity on social media.

“We do hope that the DEC will provide seasonal staff,” Zepp said. “We think this is really important because visitation is increasing and impacts associated with that are increasing.”

The public comment period is open until Sept. 23. Written comments can be submitted by email to R7.UMP@ dec.ny.gov, by mail to NYSDEC, Division of Lands and Forests, 1285 Fisher Ave., Cortland, NY 13045, or by phone at 607-753-3095.

Draft design plans can be obtained from the Region 7 sub-office in Cortlandville.