Two years ago, the state bought city-owned land around Hemlock and Canadice Lakes. Rochester had acquired some of properties more than a century previous in order to protect its drinking water supply.
The state may own the land, but the city still maintains it. The state pays the city to perform tasks including mowing and unplugging culverts. The arrangement was supposed to be temporary, though, and the city has already made the state's money last longer than originally intended. It's not clear what happens after that money runs out, which will be either later this year or early next year, says Bob Morrison, the city's director of water.
Some of the maintenance work, like unplugging the culverts under trails, is done to maintain water quality, Morrison says.
But this is not a fight between the city and state; the issue is long-term planning and resources. The State Department of Environmental Conservation is developing a plan for managing what's now called the Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. The plan will detail the tasks and investments — including staff — necessary to keep up the land, says John Gibbs, regional forester for the DEC. Gibbs says he can't predict what recommendations will be included in the plan.
The DEC does have staff to monitor public use of the land, he says. And the state has been doing some management tasks in the Hemlock-Canadice watershed, including erosion prevention.
For now, city and DEC staffs keep in regular contact, Morrison says. And if the DEC eventually decides not to do work that city officials deem important in the watershed, then the city could step in, he says.