Many people in the Town of Onondaga and neighboring communities are familiar with beautiful Pleasant Valley, which runs from Cedarvale to Marcellus. The Haudenosaunee used its woods and wetlands for hunting and for sources of medicine. In the early 1800s Europeans & New Englanders set up farms and gristmills near the waters of Cedarvale Creek and W. Onondaga Creek. Many of these early settlers are buried in cemeteries along Pleasant Valley Rd., in nearby S. Onondaga or Navarino, or in smaller family plots in the area. In the 1940s people drove cars from Syracuse for an “outing” in Pleasant Valley, just as cyclists enjoy its scenic beauty in regular rides through this valley today.
Most people in the area are familiar with the Cedarvale Maple Syrup Company, run until recently by Karl and Mary Wiles, on Pleasant Valley Rd. The Wiles’ property included more than 200 acres across the road from the company store. The property was managed not only for its maple sugar bush, but also for agricultural crops and Christmas trees. The property has streams, extensive open and wooded wetlands, upland forest, a pond and two shallow pools, along with nearly 3 miles of unmarked trails for hiking. Karl welcomed his neighbors to walk in his woods or enjoy the wonderful sounds of the spring peepers in the wetlands.
The Wiles’ decided to retire from their farm work and sell the property. The idea that such a beautiful section of the valley might face unknown development spurred a group of neighbors to look into ways to save it. In late 2018 they contacted the Central New York Land Trust, a non-profit land preservation organization, to advocate they purchase the property. The land trust already had a history in the valley: they owned adjacent, landlocked parcels which were previously donated by the Lockwood family for preservation. If the new Wiles’ parcel could become part of the Central New York Land Trust properties, these interior parcels would no longer be landlocked. Thus was born the idea of the Pleasant Valley Preserve.
However, time was of the essence. The only option in the short term was for neighbors to be the financial support for the Central New York Land Trust until funds could be raised from the community to complete its purchase. Half the money was immediately donated or pledged by the neighbors and other donors ($150,000 total). At present, a $150,000 matching gift campaign is underway to complete the purchase of the Pleasant Valley Preserve by early 2022.
When this project is successful it will close a chapter in a remarkable story of the partnering between people with a shared a passion to preserve our community: the land advocates, the land trust, and understanding sellers. This land should become a place where the community can hike, ski, snowshoe, fish and simply enjoy the bounty and beauty of nature. We invite everyone to help this become a reality by supporting this project!