MARK GILLESPIE/Livingston County News
Getting lost at Indian Fort
Livingston County’s lands are opening up. Curious walkers are less limited to village sidewalks and more able to find nearby places to spend a few moments breathing in the natural world.
We’ve seen the City of Rochester turn over to the state 7,000 acres around Hemlock and Canadice Lakes, creating a retreat that’s almost pristine save for the foundations of old cottages sinking into the soil.
We’ve seen sweeping improvements to the Genesee Valley Greenway, including a bridge over the Genesee River saving hikers and bikers from the exhaust fumes between Leicester and Mount Morris.
On Wednesday, another such pocket of wilderness opened up near the Geneseo-Groveland town line. The Indian Fort Nature Preserve — a gorgeous piece of land few members of the general public knew much about — had its debut Wednesday thanks to the efforts of the county government and Genesee Valley Conservancy. You can read more details about this project on the back page of the “A” section this week.
The Conservancy works with landowners throughout the region to either acquire development rights or purchase land outright for the purpose of keeping its traditional appearance and use intact. A farmer whose land enters the Conservancy may sell the property, but only to another farmer. A tract of wilderness owned by the Conservancy will be kept “forever wild,” the organization promises.
I spent a long lunch break Monday at Indian Fort with my wife and two of my kids. The Livingston County News office can sometimes be a bit of a pressure-cooker, and a brief respite outdoors can re-energize and refocus me.
The Indian Fort is a 10-minute drive from Geneseo where I work, and the walk down to the river is another 15 minutes. Along the way, the kids saw frogs among the cattails of a pond, marveled at a sputtering cascade at the head of a deep, rocky gully, and found two fossilized shellfish on the east bank of the Genesee River.
If we had taken more time, we could have seen the “fort” the preserve takes its name from — not a military structure as the settlers’ name for it implies, but an earthen foundation which once supported a wooden structure believed to be used as a retreat from the Iroquois villages along the Genesee River Flats.
A natural getaway doesn’t have to be as grand as Letchworth or as crowded as Niagara. It can be a peaceful little pocket of land you can easily reach a few moments from where you live or work. Ideally, you should be able to hop on your bike and get there via a series of trails separate from the cars, trucks and tractor-trailers that roar down our highways.
When my kids are old enough to visualize life after college, I hope they remember sorting through river rocks and asking about the dozens of wildflower species they encountered. Maybe they’ll see any other part of America as a poor substitute for the fond memories they have of growing up in this beautiful county.
The Conservancy should be commended on this most recent of their many accomplishments. I look forward to taking my midday “sanity breaks” on more of their lands in the years to come.