The history of the Stevenson Forest Preserve is visible not only as paragraphs of a deed, but also in the grandeur of its trees.
The original 25-acre parcel is a patch of undisturbed forest that is quickly becoming a rarity. A number of the trees that create a dense canopy had their start at least 150 years ago. Unlike their counterparts in most regions of the northeast, these trees have only a faint memory of the mass felling that occurred in the rush to turn forest to farmland. Where patches of sunlight shine through breaks in the canopy, many ferns and wildflowers such as Indian cucumber-root, Jack-in-the-pulpit, starflower and horse-balm thrive. Another feature of the preserve to look for are the hemlock stumps that make for a humbling discovery: Although most trees die when they are logged, some hemlocks manage to survive. In a valiant effort to heal themselves, they continue to grow and are recognized by the curled edges of their wounds.
The preserve has several vernal ponds that support a variety of aquatic life. In early spring, it may be possible to witness the migration of spotted salamanders from their winter hideaways to the shallow water. Wood frogs also breed in these pools. Take care not to disrupt these populations during mating season.
Newer portions of the preserve provide other habitats—a long-fallow field with young trees, a hardwood forest, and a forest that was logged in 1996. These areas are home to still more wildlife species.
Twenty five acres of the preserve had been in the Stevenson family of Enfield since after the Revolutionary War. In 1977, Elizabeth Stevenson Bennett inherited the land from her family. Despite not visiting the property in 20 years, Bennett had strong feelings about this magnificent forest. When Michael DeMunn, the consulting forester for the Finger Lakes Land Trust and another volunteer (Betsy Darlington), approached Bennett about protecting the land, she decided to donate the property, eager to ensure the preservation of her beloved property.
In 1995, this fine old forest became the first parcel of the Stevenson Forest Preserve. In 1998 and 1999, the preserve grew to 83 acres. Thanks to Percy Browning who bought land just to the east with the sole intent of donating it, an additional 18 acres were added to the preserve. To the north of the original 25 acres, an anonymous grant allowed the purchase of 40 additional acres.
History is abundant at the Stevenson Preserve—for example, the heartfelt scars on a beech tree, carved by ten-year-old Dick Stevenson in memory of his dog. It reads, “Rex, R.S., 1938.”
Please see our public use policies for recreational activities on nature preserves.