Sugar Creek Streambank Restoration

Sugar Creek is a tributary to Keuka Lake, running along the east side of the FLM campus.

Many of the FLM’s exciting program activities take place here:

  • the public kayak dock welcomes visitors dawn to dusk free of charge to launch their boats;
  • the excitement of the Paddle Keuka 5K originates at Sugar Creek before officially starting at Keuka Lake;
  • paddlers of all skill levels, school children and private groups begin their paddling journey at Sugar Creek;
  • partnership organizations perform ecosystem and environmental studies in Sugar Creek.

With the recent rainstorms, it became very clear that the streambank was eroding, and previously documented information showed that the creek had eroded at a rate of 1 ft. per year, culminating in the 16 ft. difference that we were seeing right before our eyes. In an effort to combat this erosion, FLM staff contacted US Fish and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Yates County Soil and Water, and a civil engineer to walk through the impacted areas.  Out of a few options for streambank stabilization, toe wood solution was recommended as this design has proven successful in other NYS streambanks and provides a natural approach to this problem. The Sugar Creek toe wood solution planning began early 2021 and continued through all of 2022. With support from the Emil Muller Foundation, construction in January 2023 successfully stabilized 250ft. of streambank, bringing to its shores natural materials to enable the native plantings and habitats that will only improve with time. Cornell Cooperative is preparing riparian zone plantings plus water quality monitoring in this area for spring 2023, documenting the inevitable progress of this project. This streambank project is just one step in the improvement of the overall health of Keuka Lake that we are thrilled to be a part of.

FLM Project Director, Jim Higgins, documented the process via drone footage and we invite you to scan the QR code below or click here to watch the process from start to finish. Take a walk through the campus to see the project in real-life.

Be sure to check out the upcoming 2023 May/June issue of Life in the Finger Lakes magazine for our in-depth article of the restoration process and why we chose toe wood over other restoration options.



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