Discovering New Paths, Roy H. Park Preserve

1 Dec

Though the state parks near Ithaca, NY are amazing, I’ve been seeking new vistas and paths. Recently, I visited the Roy H. Park Preserve in Dryden, NY, a Finger Lakes Land Trust Property.  Connecting Yellow Barn and Hammond Hill State Forests with Cornell University Old 600 Natural Area, this preserve serves as a link in FLLT’s Emerald Necklace Project. The Emerald Necklace project is a mission to preserve contiguous habitat surrounding the southern end of Cayuga Lake.  Seen from an aerial perspective the conserved green spaces would form a deep u-shape, similar to an emerald necklace.

With over 30 preserves open to the public, conservation and management are key factors of the FLLT’s operations. The Roy H. Park Preserve is the first FLLT area to connect two state forests. Yellow Barn and Hammond Hill State Forests are substantial locations with 1289 and 3618 acres respectively. New York State Department of Conservation websites offer important trail, history and safety information. Ideal for fishing, hiking, snowmobiling and hunting in some areas, these forests were planted by Civilian Conservation Corps labor under President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. According to Yellow Barn Forest DEC website, Camp S-125 planted between 400,000-600,000 Scotch pine, European larch, Norway spruce, red pine, white pine, jack pine, red oak and Austrian pine seedlings.

FLLT’s relatively new website, http://fllt.org/, offers maps, articles, event information, volunteer needs and conservation successes.  Signage from the kiosks at the preserves is also available on the website.  Familiarizing oneself with trail maps and the information provided before heading to the preserve would be an ideal way to prepare for a safe and fun experience.

The site credits many contributors for their involvement in the establishment of the Roy H. Park Preserve, including a significant contribution by the daughter of the preserve’s namesake.  Frank and Blythe Baldwin’s work with FLLT to protect this area creates numerous benefits for humans, the environment and wildlife.

Two parking lots on Irish Settlement Road in Dryden, NY provide convenient access to the preserve. The northern parking area of the Roy H. Park Preserve is adjacent to “Howard’s Walk,” a wooden boardwalk leading over the marsh, named after local conservation and literacy advocate Howard Hartnett.  The grey boardwalk opens up to a wide sitting area, ideal for absorbing the surrounding wetlands, or perhaps reading a book.

We looked out over the marsh from the boardwalk, observing wide, muddy trails that led to the water, baring witness to the labor intensive habits of beavers. Beaver dams and lodges kept us busy considering their motives and activities. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website answered many questions about beaver’s habits, yet inspired even more interest. According to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, these semi-aquatic rodents averaging forty pounds live in colonies that may contain 2-12 individuals. The colony is usually made up of the adult breeding pair, the kits of the year and kits of the previous year or years. This preserve lies beside a busy highway and sadly we saw a deceased beaver in the roadway.

The Finger Lakes Trail heads east into dense forest, just after the boardwalk ends. Hunting season is open and while gun shots rang from the west, we chose to return to our car.  Though dressed for the cold we were not wearing bright clothing. Other hikers wearing blaze orange set out on the red Finger Lakes Trail with dogs on leashes.

At the southern parking area we were greeted by another fabulous kiosk of important information regarding safety precautions and best practices while at the preserve. A detailed map of the trail system helps one to become oriented within the wooded surroundings.   We chose the blue trail leading to an overlook of Six Mile Creek. The woods were quiet on a Sunday morning as we followed the gentle, wide paths through a variety of trees. Two interpretive signs were posted beside the trail naming at least two species.

A view of the creek and a large green pool was an especially interesting natural area after the flat trails through the forest. Our next discovery, surprised and delighted me so, I almost want to offer a spoiler alert! The creek’s edges display heart-shaped rocks, carefully placed by past visitors. Hearts of all sizes, fashioned over time by wind and water, sit in this natural art installation.  Standing in the creek, I wondered who made this master-piece. I’m grateful to those who conserved these spaces and encourage you to explore these local resources. Enjoy!

Heart shaped stones adorn creek edges in an art installation made by both man and nature.

Heart shaped stones adorn creek edges in an art installation made by both man and nature. Photo by Kristen Moore.

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