Acreage: 110 acres
Trail Distance: 1.0 miles
From Ithaca, take Rt. 79 west. In Mecklenburg, turn left (south) on Rt. 228. Follow for 7.7 miles and turn right (north) on Steam Mill Rd. Follow to intersection with Charles Rd. Turn left onto Charles Rd. and park on right. Preserve is on both sides of Charles and Steam Mill Rds.
Martin Nature Preserve
We invite you to stand beneath the arms of these ancient trees and find comfort in the shade of their leaves and in their preservation.
Once a Christmas tree farm, the Martin Nature Preserve still has an abundance of conifers on the property. Named after two of their grandchildren, whose father was from nearby Odessa, the preserve was donated by Gene and Joan Lane in November 1993.
Not only did the Martin Preserve property prove to be a successful Christmas tree plantation, but naturally occurring trees have also thrived within this 110-acre forest. Populations of hemlock, yellow birch, white pine, white oak and sugar maple are nearing the old-growth stage of 150 years. Right on the bank of Catlin Mill Creek, which runs through the preserve, stretch the graceful limbs of a 300-year-old white oak. At about five feet in diameter, the ancient oak stands as testament to the beauty and strength of trees. Because of the extensive logging in the northeastern United States, trees like this are rare and welcome sights.
In a hilly, swampy area of the preserve, an amazing yellow birch, curved and gnarled, stands tall, inching into the sky. Large roots studded with rocks jut up from the soil about five feet, like the legs of a giraffe. Although birches don't germinate well in thick layers of dead leaves on the forest floor, they thrive in the rich dirt of a freshly uprooted tree. The life history of this tree is like a visible folk tale, open to change and interpretation.
Just north of Charles Road, the preserve is dense with Scots pine and spruce. The pole-sized trees are great perches for Black-capped Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets. The trees also provide refreshing shade for human visitors on hot summer days. In the most northern part of the preserve, the forest is older, with very little understory vegetation. This is perfect habitat for Screech Owl and Great Horned Owl. Deer mice scamper on the forest floor, teasing the nocturnal predators. In early spring, the odd maroon flowers of skunk cabbage are visible, even with a blanket of snow. One of the most intriguing characteristics of skunk cabbage is its ability to actually melt snow, clearing a space to bloom. If you're willing to get a bit muddy, kneel down and smell the skunk-like odor that gives the plant its name.