A group of determined citizens has been working to save a bit of Western New York's green space, and now it's time for the New York State Parks to build on that work with a $279,000 grant to help purchase 60 acres of farmland.
The group has been working for the better part of a couple of years to raise the $630,000 needed to develop the Mill Road Scenic Overlook vista in the Town of Aurora.
With 36 committee members working on this project, the Friends of Mill Road deserves credit for already having raised up to $230,000 through everything from art auctions to fundraisers and galas. This effort also has gained widespread political support.
But time is running out on the effort. A contract with the current owners stipulates that the purchase must take place this year. The contract calls for a paying about $540,000 for the land. The rest of the money would go to develop the scenic overlook, an easement and a variety of other project costs.
The Town of Aurora has offered to own and maintain the land, which fits into the town's open space plan. That plan recognizes the overall economic benefits of preservation. New York State Parks should also favor this project because it can be completed quickly and with the support of the landowners.
The Closs family has owned much of the entire acreage since the 1820s. It was once a dairy farm, and in recent memory a spectacular meadow that allows views across the Cazenovia Creek valley to Knox Farm State Park in the near distance and Buffalo in the far distance.
Clinton Closs, now in his mid-80s, grew up on the land and has told The News that he is happy about the overlook project. Same can be said for the nearby Sievenpiper family, which bought 20 acres from the Closses.
The Western New York Land Conservancy, which sought a formal appraisal to determine the property value, would hold a conservation easement to ensure the acreage is preserved in perpetuity.
The State Parks grant would turn this land into a community asset. The overlook would have a safe place for people to stop and admire the view, wildlife habitat would be protected and a bit of Erie County would be protected from development.