January 26, 2022

Transformation takes shape

Renovations underway as part of $1.25M Carpenter Falls project

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Work crews clear the parking area at Carpenter Falls Unique Area in Niles. Fences have been installed to close off public access during a project to create a parking lot, install infrastructure and increase accessibility.

NILES — Carpenter Falls Unique Area will be closed to the public until next summer while it undergoes renovations to improve accessibility, including new trails and a boardwalk.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation began planning for the $1.25 million Carpenter Falls Public Access Improvement Project soon after acquiring the 37-acre property from the Finger Lakes Land Trust in 2008, said a representative from the DEC. After a public comment period and two informational meetings in 2019, the DEC finalized the plan in 2020.

“Carpenter Falls Unique Area contains many noteworthy features, but the topography is steep and can present a challenge for access,” the representative said Wednesday.

The area off Route 41A includes four waterfalls, including the 90-foot Carpenter Falls and the 62-foot Angel Falls.

The project designs not only considered accessibility, but also the protection of sensitive natural resources, such as nearby bodies of water.

“In addition to improving public access at this special place, DEC designed these new features and upgrades to help reduce long-term environmental impacts to the area and protect water quality in Skaneateles Lake, a popular recreation destination and the source of drinking water for the city of Syracuse and surrounding areas,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos in a news release.

The project will occur in two phases and includes enhancements to ensure safe and convenient access to the site’s popular waterfalls, which will be funded by $1.25 million from the state’s Environmental Protect Fund.

Improvements include:

  • An elevated boardwalk, accessible to visitors of all abilities, leading 630 feet from the parking lot to a new observation platform where visitors can view the 90-foot-tall Upper Carpenter Falls. Both the boardwalk and observation platform will include handrails and side rails.
  • A new trail with stone steps down a steep ravine to view Upper Carpenter Falls from a stream-level vantage.
  • A new paved parking lot, which will accommodate 20 vehicles and is designed with green infrastructure to manage stormwater.
  • A bike rack for cyclists.
  • An accessible chemical toilet with a screened enclosure near the parking area.

“Accessibility improvements invite families with children in strollers and people with mobility impairments to visit state lands,” said the DEC representative. “Universal design incorporates features to support access for the widest range of abilities.”

About Carpenter Falls
For details about Carpenter Falls Unique Area, go to www.dec.ny.gov/ lands/108942.html

The boardwalk will accommodate visitors while minimizing erosion that can be caused by pedestrian traffic, reports the DEC.

“It is important to mitigate stormwater runoff to reduce the risk of soil eroding and being carried to nearby waterbodies,” said the DEC representative. The project will reduce the amount and speed of running stormwater that leaves the site, protecting nearby water quality.

“DEC designed the project’s green infrastructure to be protective for 100-year storm events, with features like underground chambers and retention basins that allow stormwater to infiltrate the soil as groundwater rather than running off the site into surface waters,” the DEC representative said. “Regenerative step-pools will also be integrated to reduce the velocity of stormwater entering the site from adjacent lands.”

The second phase of the project will address access to the lower falls, including the repair and improvement of an existing foot trail.

“DEC is thrilled this project, which will create more opportunities for visitors of all abilities to safely view Carpenter Falls, is underway,” Seggos said.