If you've ever driven down Mill Road in East Aurora, you've undoubtedly been left in awe of the incredible vista that the group called "Friends Of Mill Road" are now in the process of trying to preserve.
The sweeping landscape is one of Western New York's most beautiful. It's a magnificent panorama that has inspired people here for decades.
"This is an incredible spot," says John Hughes, one of the Friends Of Mill Road. "Anyone who uses Mill Road on a regular basis can't help but admire this wonderful view."
"We see people pulling over here all the time to take pictures," says Kathy Lasher, Co-Chair of the Friends Of Mill Road. "We've heard from people that have said they just come here to sit and ponder life's questions. It just gives you a minute to pause and take a breath."
Although the amazing view is the most evident aspect of this beautiful land, there's much more to it than that.
This is not a one dimensional patch of real estate. A short hike past the rolling fields reveals the inner beauty of the Mill Road property.
"We've toured the site with a number of wildlife biologists and an expert birder from the Department of Environmental Conservation," says Lasher. "They're all impressed with how pristine some of the environment is. There's a woodland area that's great for deer cover in the winter; owls, bobcats have been spotted here. The wetland area is a great habitat resource for birds and special plants. The meadow itself has had a number of iterations in its life. It's been a farm, it was a potato farm, it was a hay farm, it's been a dairy farm."
The need to protect this land is because the longtime owners, whose family has owned the land since 1828, are looking to sell the land. They are kind enough to give the preservation group first dibs on its purchase.
The Friends Of Mill Road have been hard at work raising money to meet the purchase price of about $600,000. Although the fundraising has gone pretty well to this point, there's still a lot of work to be done, and not a lot of time to left to meet their goal.
"We have until the end of this year under a signed agreement with the property owners to secure the funds necessary to purchase this property," says Hughes.
"It is coming up on the end for us, and we're kind of determined to have it be a success," says Lasher. "We need as many people to help as possible. "
For those who "can't see the forest for the trees" and wonder why anyone would go to such lengths to preserve a "mere" tract of land, the Friends Of Mill Road have an answer for them, too.
"Property values in the area will be stronger because of it," says Lasher. "There's been a lot of studies showing that open space protection does reinforce property values, which strengthens the tax base of the town and the county, and in a larger span, the state's view as well."
And coming together to protect the property brings the community together as well. Strengthening it by answering a rallying cry to preserve our rich natural heritage.
"I think even for the 'doubting Thomases', I think that has to say, 'well, I've got my doubts,'" says Hughes. "But when you say this can be public, and it can remain unchanged, literally forever, I'm on the side of support."
"As we've talked with people and gotten feedback on our website, it's been a pretty resounding yes," says Lasher. "That yes, this is worthy, and has merit, and should be done."
The Friends Of Mill Road are looking for help of all kinds. To find out how you can help, visit their website at www.friendsofmillroad.org