The Six Mile Creek watershed in Tompkins County, New York is approximately 50 square miles and provides water for City of Ithaca residents from its reservoirs.
In the early 1900s:
- In 1903 30 foot dam (known locally as Second Dam) was built to help supply water from the Six Mile Creek reservoirs.
- In 1911 the Water Filtration Plant near the Mulholland Wildflower Preserve and Potters Falls 60 foot dam (known locally as Third Dam) in the Town of Ithaca were completed.
- Robert H. Treman, a local businessman and Cornell University trustee, gifted a parcel of land surrounding Six Mile Creek Glen to the City of Ithaca with the caveat that the land be used as a park and maintained for public use. The area, which is near Van Natta’s Dam (known locally as First Dam), became known as Six Mile Glen Park.
In the late 1900s:
- In 1970 a Board of Public Works set a plan in motion to protect the Six Mile Creek Natural Area and the area surrounding the Water Filtration Plant then became a wildflower preserve.
- In the mid-1970s, as part of the initiative proposed by the New York State American Revolution Bicentennial Commission to commemorating the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution, Elizabeth Mulholland and her fellow Bicentennial Committee members proposed the Circle Greenway Bicentennial Project. The greenway concept was intended to be a permanent city attraction. The proposal was accepted by the council and Circle Greenway Committee arm of Ithaca’s Common Council was formed to oversee maintenance of the natural areas.
- A Six Mile Creek Study Committee was formed in 1983 to address increased concern with protecting the watershed. Shortly after the committee was formed a local high school student dove into the creek near Second Dam and died. Due to the attention upon the unfortunate accident, four of the 14 recommendations in the committee’s final report, “Six Mile Gorge, People and Preservation,” were focused on swimming.
- The Six Mile Creek Overseer Committee was formed in the summer of 1984 in part to address the issue of illegal swimming. Elizabeth Mulholland served on the Six Mile Creek Overseer Committee and was instrumental to the continued stewardship of the Six Mile Creek natural area.
- In 1986 the wildflower preserve was renamed the Elizabeth Mulholland Wildflower Preserve to honor her continued service.
- In the mid-1990s the Six Mile Creek Advisory Committee (previously named the Six Mile Creek Overseer Committee) proposed the formation of a Natural Areas Commission (NAC) to advise the city in how to manage its natural areas. The NAC worked closely with the Six Mile Creek Advisory Committee and the Circle Greenway Committee to ensure that the natural areas were being maintained and protected. Eventually the three committees merged into one committee. The NAC still exists today and advises the city on the preservation of Ithaca Falls, Fuertes Bird Sanctuary, and the Six Mile Creek Natural Area.
For a more detailed history of the natural area check out the story A Century of Six Mile Creek Stewardship on Storify: https://storify.com/je232/six-miles-of-beauty