Owens Falls Sanctuary in Aurora, the latest land in Erie County to be preserved from development, should be open to the public sometime next year.
But there are a few things the Western New York Land Conservancy, which acquired the 57-acre parcel earlier this month, needs to do before letting the public walk the trails by two waterfalls and through the beech and hemlock forest and wetlands.
- Hire a trail designer and build trails.
- Meet with neighbors about a management plan.
- Remove invasive species of plants.
- Add signs and benches.
- Figure out where cars will park.
"This is an amazing place," said Nancy Smith, executive director of the land conservancy.
The property, which lies on the southeast of Center Street and Hubbard Road, includes mature headwater forests on Mann’s Creek, which flows through a 100-foot deep ravine. Known as Jackson Falls, it has been renamed Owens Falls Sanctuary in honor of Don and Barbara Owens, who contributed $200,000 to help the land conservancy purchase the property. More than $700,000 was raised, and the funds left over from the $400,000 purchase and closing costs will help in the management of the sanctuary.
Smith said she does not know when the sanctuary will open to the public, but it will be sometime next year. She said the conservancy wants to make sure the public and wildlife remain safe.
"Our biggest challenge right now is the parking," Smith said. "We have to really carefully think about what would serve the public the best."
The conservancy will offer some guided tours of the sanctuary before it opens to the public, she said.