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Pine Lake
Hartwick College
West Davenport, New York
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PHOTO www.nysgis.state.ny.us

Pine Lake
Charlotte Creek Road

West Davenport, New York
owned by Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York
Latitude: 42 27 30 N — Longitude: 74 57 10 W
Elevation: South Hill (1200 to 1921 feet)
USGS Topographic Quad: West Davenport
NYSGIS tile: West_Davenport_NW1
Forest Types: mature second growth
Mixed Hardwood (oak); Hemlock; White Pine;
Spruce-Tamarack wetlands
Total Acres: 894 acres — Old Growth: undetermined

Pine Lake Forest is a 894-acre ecological preserve in the Town of Davenport in Delaware County. The forest is owned by Hartwick College in Oneonta, a small city in Otsego County on the Susquehanna River, midway between Schenectady and Binghamton in eastern New York. The Forest Preserve is a dogleg-shaped property on the south slopes of South Hill, a long ridge east of Oneonta.

South Hill extends from northeast to southwest, and rises 700 feet high, from 1200 to over 1900 feet near Webb Hill in the northeast corner. North of South Hill, the Susquehanna River descends south from Otsego Lake north of Cooperstown, and meets Schenevus Creek, which flows down from the northeast, beginning near Cobleskill. I-88 and NY 7 run through this deep, wide glacial valley—the main transportation corridor from Schenectady to Binghamton. On the south, NY 23 runs along the south side of Charlotte Creek, which drains to the west into the Susquehanna through the township of Davenport. The Otsego-Delaware county line bisects most of this ridge before turning south near its west end.
Pine Lake
West Davenport, New York
click to enlarge


to Pine Lake
  • Take I-88 to Exit 16
  • go south 2.9 miles (over I-88 & Susquehanna River)
  • continue into Delaware County near used car lot
  • continue past Tally Ho restaurant
  • tight left in 200 feet onto Charlotte Creek Road (before Creek)
  • go past West Davenport post office on left
  • continue 1.9 miles to mailbox #1894 (left) & Pine Lake sign (right)
  • park in lot on right by large white 2-story lodge
  • total distance from I-88: 4.8 miles
  • The Pine Lake property begins at a 1200-foot elevation around Pine Lake, located on Charlotte Creek between West Davenport and Davenport Center. Pine Lake is 12 acres, and is surrounded by 30 acres of woods and wetlands that includes a lodge and cabins for year round use. North of Pine Lake, the property crosses the local road and begins a steep 200-foot climb up the first slope of South Hill. The land then drops slightly into a shallow stream basin before it climbs 700 feet northward, up to the crest of South Hill, just beyond Mud Lake, a hemlock bog. The north boundary of the property coincides with the Otsego-Delaware county line. This upland area is over 800 acres.

    First Survey
    Saturday, Sept. 28, 2002
    at a training workshop
    Second Survey
    Saturday, May 3, 2003
    Forests on this property are diverse, ranging from white pine and wetlands around Pine Lake, to mixed hardwoods, oak-hickory, and hemlock-dominated stands on the upper slopes. The oaks—especially Northern Red Oak—predominate on most of the acreage. Trees in different stands are of varying ages, from young stands to pole timber and mature, large trees. There is no indication of virgin forest, and most stands have been logged in recent historical times, although not in the last 100 years. Trees around Mud Lake bog on the northern ridge crest are likely the oldest stand on the property.


    A faculty committee of Hartwick College negotiated the purchase of the property in 1971 from Kurt Neunzig, who ran a summer resort. The faculty's intention was to establish an ecological preserve to provide a unique natural setting for students to engage in academic, leadership and recreation activities. The study of biology, natural history, environmental education, and forest ecology are pursued on the property. Leadership training was developed through outdoor skill challenges such as a ropes course. Boating, swimming, cross country skiing, hiking, and backpacking are enjoyed by students and faculty. And research projects in biology, glacial geology, hydrology, ornithology and wildflowers have been implemented on the land. Field schools in archaeology have been taught several times at Pine Lake and have revealed North American occupations dating to 2500B.C.
    Pine Lake
    West Davenport, New York

    TOPO MAP www.nysgis.state.ny.us

    Currently studies are being made to evaluate nitrates and phosphates present in a well-buffered lake (Pine Lake) and their contribution to eutrophication in the lake. Since Hatwick College owns most of the watershed contributing runoff to Pine Lake, this is an ideal undisturbed location for this field study.

    In August 1982, a forest management plan was prepared by a consulting forester that appraised the land for commercial timber, a strategy divergent from the original faculty vision of an ecological preserve. The forester's report estimated total timber volume at 1.94 million board feet of saw timber, 20.376 tons of hardwood pulpwood and 220.8 cords of softwood pulpwood. Total stumpage value of the timber was set at $169,231.

    In April 1986, George Frankel prepared a Pine Lake Management Plan detailing guidelines for protection and controlled use of the area around Pine Lake. Concerns not addressed in the 1982 timber appraisal were discussed, including management recommendations for ecologically significant land and water areas, public use facilities, and current trends and constraints. This Plan expressed a preservationist view for the property's management.
    Pine Lake
    West Davenport, New York
    click to enlarge

    PHOTO www.nysgis.state.ny.us

    At various times the Hartwick College Board of Trustees has looked into the potential for logging the property for income. In 1992, a Forest Stewardship Plan was prepared to evaluate such timber harvests.

    The use of Pine Lake forest remains uncertain. Faculty and students, 80% of whom see the site as a "forever wild" preserve, have interests in the property's multiple uses for academics, research and recreation. Others see the property also for its use as income from timber harvest. Various plans have been offered by each interest, but no permanent agreement has yet assured the long-term disposition of the land and its forests.

    Associated Properties

    Adjoining Hartwick College's Pine Lake Forest, on the north, is a 307 acre forest. This area was owned by Otsego County until 1979, when it was sold to New York State Dept. of Transportation during the construction of I-88. Mr. Ken Williams was the Otsego County Forester at the time of sale, and reports this parcel has not been logged for many years, and has some large, old trees near the top.

    On the northwest, another 70-acre property adjoins the Pine Lake Forest which is owneed by the State of New York, and is designated a forest preserve. Altogether, these three properties have the potential to create a 1200-acre forest preserve across the middle of South Hill. What is required is a long-term stewardship plan that commits these properties to sustainable management and appropriate ecological preservation.

    Ecological Preserve: One plan being discussed is to establish a regional forest preserve. By combining the Hartwick College property with these two public preserves, and other private lands on South Hill, an ecological preserve of at least 1000 acres could be created. Private lands, including all or part of the Hartwick College Pine Lake property, could be protected through conservation easements, perhaps in cooperation with a land trust such as the Otsego Land Trust based in Cooperstown. A variety of easements could be employed, tailored to the diversity of ecological niches, ranging from wetland and stream preserves to recreation and sustainable timber. Such a public-private partnership could be a model for the type of ecological preservation and forest regeneration that is needed to reverse two centuries of land degradation and initiate large scale ecological restoration.

    Water Features

    Soils: As of 1992, inadequate data is available on soil types. Soil mapping of the forest has not been completed. Generally, soils are shallow, with deeper soils along the drainages. Sandy, gravelly ridges run along Pie Lake and Charlotte Creek.
    Mud Lake
    West Davenport, New York

    PHOTO www.nysgis.state.ny.us

    Pine Lake: This 12-acre lake is located in the southern end of the property. It is a glacial kettle hole lake formed from an ice block during glacial recession, and drains into Charlotte Creek through a wetland. Pine Lake is maximum 30 feet deep and is an excellent fish habitat. Study of the lake by DEC biologists and College personnel in July 1984 to April 1985 found fish common to the Susquehanna drainage:
    Bluegill Sunfish (31.1%)
    Pumpkinseed Sunfish (21.9%)
    Redbreasted Sunfish (11.8%)
    Yellow Perch (8.9%)
    Brown Bullhead (7.7%)
    Chubsucker (7.7%)
    Largemouth Bass (3%)
    Rock Bass (3%)
    Chain Pickerel (1.8%)
    White Sucker (1.2%)
    . The study recommended protecting the lake from silt and setting up a water quality monitoring system, with goals set by the College.

    Mud Lake: This 1.5 acre bog lake is on the ridge crest at the northern edge of the property. A floating mat of sphagnum moss and related plants surround the open water. This unique area is a glacial features, and has vegetation found in subarctic regions. Mud Lake shows no signs of fish, likely due to extreme acidity of the water. This unique natural area should be set aside as a special preserve.

    Charlotte Creek: This major stream is on the property's southern boundary, and is protected by NYS DEC guidelines as part of the Susquehanna River watershed.

    Shelly Brook: This perennial stream runs diagonally across the property northeast to southwest, and drains most of the forest. This tributary of Charlotte Creek is quite small, and wildlife remove many fish in areas of low water. This brook is also protected by DEC guidelines, can support cold water fish like trout, and contains aquatic life typical of cold water trout streams. With proper permits, pools and deflectors can increase water depths and available holes for low water times.
    Pine Lake Forest
    Trees Larger than 16 inch dbh
    species16" dbh18" dbh20" dbh22" dbh24" dbh
    Red Oak4,5481,07533626113
    Red Maple107
    White Oak1483978
    Chestnut Oak4411778
    Paper Birch344
    White Pine367143
    Black Oak1224444
    Black Birch16
    Black Cherry158

    Wetlands: Several small, scattered wetlands on the property must be treated as sensitive habitat under State and Federal regulations.

    Forest Resources

    Forests on the property are mostly in the middle succession phase, and have a history of disturbance by man and natural events, including fire, wind, tornado, and chestnut blight. Large white pine stumps are evidence of large scale timber harvest around the beginning of the 1900s. There is evidence of a major forest wildfire in 1908.

    The 1992 Forest Stewardship Plan prepared for the College Board of Trustees included a chart of trees larger than 8 inch dbh, listed by species. The only species larger than 22 inch dbh were Northern Red Oak and Hemlock. Five species were larger than 20 inch dbh, seven were over 18 inch dbh, and eleven over 16 inch dbh (see chart at right). Unfortunately, the chart does not identify the species by stand, so it is not possible to use this data to identify stands with greater potential to qualify as old growth.

    The 1992 Forest Stewardship Plan divided the forests into 21 stands, as detailed in the table below. Stands are numbered from the northeast to southwest, and allow identification of distinct speces communities and tree size classes. The Plan estimated the property contains 1.86 million board-feet of saw timber valued at $391,051, and 16,483 tons of growing stock valued at $65,932.

    The property has a 4-wheel drive road that climbs from the state road almost to Mud Lake at the crest of South Hill, a distance of over a mile. Eight miles of foot trails also exist which facilitate access to most areas of the property.

    Pine Lake Forest
    Tree Stand Descriptions
    #acrestypediameterspecies (%)treatment
    1163mixed oakpole timberRed Oak (55), Paper Birch (10), Red Maple (10),
    Hemlock (10), Aspen (10), misc. (5)
    239hemlockpole timberHemlock (30), Red Maple (30), Aspen (30), misc. (10)none
    318hemlockpole timberHemlock (30), Red Maple (30), TM (15),
    Red Oak (10), Aspen (5), misc. (5)
    469mixed oaksaw timberRed Oak (65), White Oak (15), Aspen (10), misc. (10)cull removal
    5124mixed oakpole timberRed Oak (70), White Oak (10), misc. (20)selective harvest
    cull removal
    671mixed oakpole timberRed Oak (45), Chestnut Oak (25), White Oak (10),
    Red Maple (5), Aspen (5), misc. (10)
    thin 10 acres/year
    718hemlocksaw timberHemlock (60), Red Maple (20), Red Oak (15), misc. (5)none
    816hemlockpole timberHemlock (75), Red Maple (15), Black Birch (5), misc. (5)none
    917swamp hardwoodpole timberAspen (35), Yellow Birch (20),
    Red Maple (20), misc. (25)
    two .5 acre
    forest openings
    1019mixed oakpole timberRed Oak (55), Paper Birch (25),
    Red Maple (10), misc. (10)
    1125northern hardwoodpole timberRed Maple (25), Red Oak (20), Aspen (15),
    Hemlock(10), misc. (10)
    1263northern hardwoodpole timberHemlock (30), Red Maple (20), Aspen (15),
    Northern Hardwood (15), Red Oak (10), misc. (10)
    selective harvest
    cull removal
    1356mixed oaksaw timberRed Oak (50), Aspen (15), White Oak (15),
    Red Maple (5), misc. (15)
    shelterwood cut
    5 acres
    142mixed oakpole timberRed Maple (25), Hemlock (20), Red Oak (15),
    Paper Birch (10), BE (10), misc. (20)
    1553pioneer hardwoodsaplingsYellow Birch (30), Red Maple (20), PC (20),
    Aspen (20), misc. (10)
    1645mixed oaksaw timberRed Oak (70), Black Oak (15), Hemlock (5), misc. (5)re-evaluate
    1717pioneer hardwoodpole timberRed Oak (40), Aspen (35), White Oak (20), misc. (10)none
    1810hemlocksaw timberHemlock (60), Red Maple (20), Red Oak (10), misc. (10)none
    1910white Pinesaw timberWhite Pine (100)thin
    2017pioneer hardwoodpole timberRed Maple (30), White Pine (20), Black Cherry (10),
    Red Oak (10), Aspen (10), misc. (20)
    212hemlocksaw timberHemlock (30), White Pine (20), Red Maple (20),
    Red Oak (10), misc. (20)

    Forest Under Threat

    Recently Hartwick College had the property evaluated by a forester who reported that $400,000 to $600,000 in timber could be harvested from the forest. This potential income has gotten serious interest from the Board. The original faculty involved in the property purchase 30 years ago have retired, and their intention for an ecological preserve is endangered by the financial motivations.

    The Earth Restoration and Reforestation Alliance
    www.championtrees.orgupdated 4/14/2003