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Land Conservancy is on a laudable mission to save a forest with links to Roycrofters

One family’s need to part with land that is integral to its history could be the public’s permanent gain if the Western New York Land Conservancy can raise the final $200,000 it needs to purchase and protect the 57-acre forest off Hubbard Road in the Town of Aurora.

Hubbard Road: The area is significant not only to the descendants of Cecil Jackson, but to all Western New Yorkers who savor the region’s connection to the famed Roycroft movement founded by Elbert Hubbard late in the 19th century in East Aurora. Jackson had lived across the street from Hubbard’s son, Bert, and was fully enchanted by the Roycroft arts movement. He bought the forest in the 1920s, and his grandsons have kept it in the family since.

These gorgeous woods include a ravine, two waterfalls and a pond. They brim with wildlife. Now, Jackson’s three grandsons, who no longer live in the area, need to let the land go and want to place it into hands that will protect and open it for public uses, including hiking and snowshoeing.

That’s where the Western New York Land Conservancy comes in. It has already raised $400,000 toward the purchase, and needs to come up with the final $200,000. That will allow the conservancy not only to purchase the forest but to cover closing costs and start a stewardship fund for necessary maintenance, such as tree clearing.

To that end, the conservancy is offering naming rights within the forest. For $20,000, a donor can name one of five benches. One of the forest’s two trails can be named for $50,000. One of the two waterfalls goes for $100,000 or, for a donation of $200,000, the entire forest, now called the Jackson Falls Preserve, can be named.

It’s inelegant, perhaps, but effective. A similar strategy worked three years ago for another property in East Aurora. In exchange for a donation of $200,000, a 60-acre plot with views of farmland and treetops is now called the Mill Road Scenic Overlook.

The important point is to protect land with historic associations that are significant to the region. As Jajean Rose-Burney, the conservancy’s development director, observed while tramping one of the forest’s paths, “Hubbard probably walked this property.” The romance of that notion is undeniable.

The forest includes a feature that makes it not only significant, but increasingly rare. The woods comprise a “headwater forest,” Rose-Burney said – one that filters water making its way to the Niagara River. While a lot of headwater forests remain in Western New York, they’re also declining rapidly. This one could be protected.

That’s of real value to the residents of Erie County – those who are here now, and those who are yet to arrive. It’s also a sign of respect to Hubbard, Jackson and all who have understood the value that nature brings to those who enter its domain.