Although I take a lot of jabs at “hippies”, the reason I never made it to Ecovillage before now had less to do with any personal stance and more to do with the fact it was just out of my way. Rachel Carson Way lies about a mile and a half westward of Inlet Island, nestled in the hills opposite from Cornell. This means that when I past through, it’s farthest out of my way, so time often being a priority, it always sat on the bucket list. Finally, I made the conscious effort to take a trip up on my last photo tour.
Ecovillage runs on the concept of co-housing, which in many ways runs close to most people’s idea of a commune (and mentally, I still find myself referring to it as a commune). There are optional shared dinners, a community-based work system, and of course, being in tune with the natural environment. Hence, solar arrays, housing designed to minimize energy use, foods grown on the property, and so forth. Ecovillage isn’t unique, not even in Tompkins County (White Hawk in Danby is a smaller but similar concept). But it is probably one of the best known developments of its kind.
Ecovillage began planning in 1992-1993, when stakeholders purchased a former farm with the intent of launching an eco-friendly community. The first neighborhood, FROG (First Resident Group), began construction in 1995 and was completed two years later. The second community, SONG (Second Neighborhood Group), received site plan approval in 2001, and was built in three phases over five years. Each of these neighborhoods has 30 units with a community center. The community also has a few other bells and whistles, like a passive bus shelter, a root cellar, carports and a berry farm. The pre-Ecovillage farmhouse and barn are now a separate property holding an antique shop and the City Lights B&B.
Ecovillage is well underway with its third neighborhood, TREE. At 40 units, TREE is slightly larger than the first two neighborhoods. Construction is definitely underway, and the majority of the community should be complete before the end of the year. Also worth a quick note, a 900 sq ft “Gourd Workshop” was under construction when I passed through. More additions, like an education center and a roadside farm stand, are in the works.
If you don’t want to be a creeper like me, Ecovillage opens itself up for a free public tour at 3 PM on the first Saturday of each month. That way, you can avoid being like me, trying to take photos when kids keep wandering in front of them, and having that awkward realization that you look like a child predator.