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Henry A. Smith Woods
Trumansburg, New York

PHOTO DYarrow 4/28/02

Henry A. Smith Woods
founded 1909
Trumansburg, New York

Smith Woods is a small patch of forest on the right of NY 96 as you first drive into the Village of Trumanburg from the south. The simple wooden sign by the highway offers only two shreds of information: "founded in 1909 to be preserved in its natural state." No data on the size of the woods, its owner, or the story and key figures of its preservation
Aerial Photo
Smith Woods
Trumansburg, NY
click to enlarge
Directions to
Smith Woods
  • from the Ithaca
  • take NY 96 north out of Ithaca (west)
  • drive northwest out of Cayuga Valley
  • continue northwest thru Jacksonville
  • at the Village of Trumansburg line, Smith Woods is on the right
  • continue to the first right
  • turn right, go to the next corner, park
  • a trail enters Smith Woods from this northeast corner
  • This tiny patch of woodland is in a heavily logged area in southern Finger Lakes, and probably suffered the common fate of clearcut in the first decade of the 19th century. This greenspace is certainly an attractive, pleasing sight at the threshold of the village, and may harbor an outstanding ecological resource.
    Protected Site
    Smith Wood's small old growth ecosystem is delicate, fragile, easily damaged, surrounded by public and private properties. Access is limited by Smith Woods Board of Directors. Permission to visit this site:
    Dave Gell, Community Forester
    607-387-6750

    Given that its has been protected from cutting for nearly a century, Smith Woods is probably one of the finer examples of second growth old growth forests in the immediate region. Especially since nearly every acre of forest in the Finger Lakes was clear cut in the first decades of European settlement, and all the flat land was plowed for farming.

    The story of Smith Woods is one that someone should research and record in the course of our old growth surveys. An important issue is any conditions and covenants put on the property as part of its original gifting to the Town, such as any requirement that the forest "be preserved in its natural state" means left uncut and undisturbed, including no removal of snags and woody debris. This may have been a condition, given the presence of subtantial woody debris decaying on the ground.
    Smith Woods
    Trumansburg, New York

    PHOTO DYarrow 4/28/02



    First Scouting Visit
    April 28, 2002
    David Yarrow

    After parking on the roadside next to the signs announcing both the village and the woods, I made a brief walk a hundred yards into the forest. I was assured many trees are large enough to exceed a century in age, and a few may approach 200 years. Diameters of many hardwoods were over two feet and approaching three feet. Mostly the trees are a diverse and healthy mix of hardwoods, with a few white pine and fewer hemlock. The upper canopy, however, is not all that high, probably not exceeding 100 feet, and is very broken, since the number of vary large and tall trees is not that great.

    I was unable to discern any clues to the boundaries and thus the size of this forest, but seemed easily more than 10 acres, and perhaps much more.
    Smith Woods
    Trumansburg, New York

    PHOTO DYarrow 4/28/02



    Second Scouting Visit
    October 19, 2002
    David Yarrow, Anita & Michael Devine

    This time we parked at the northeast corner—opposite from the previous visit. A wide trail enters the Woods from the corner, with a low stone fireplace no more than 50 feet into the Woods. However, my impression is not many human feet tread this woodland trail.

    The trees in this corner are much more impressive. Three impressions immediately were obvious: the woods are much narrower east-west than long north-south—perhaps the equivalent of a large city block; the trees are larger than the southwest corner—not only greater girth, but taller; and the ground story is overrun by periwinkle, which, though very picturesque, is a non-native alien species that smothers any other ground covers. In fact, unlike the southwest corner, there seems a lack of native ground story vegetation.
    Smith Woods
    Trumansburg, New York

    PHOTO DYarrow 4/28/02

    The species mix in this corner is different than the southwest, with numerous large hemlock and white pine, several with diameters easily reaching—perhaps exceeding—three feet. Also present were large red oaks and beech trees, several approaching three foot dbh. The beeches seemed quite healthy, with no sign of beech bark scale disease. I also observed a few very large red and sugar maples.

    Similarly, the canopy seems higher than the southwest corner, likely reaching and exceeding 100 feet for the tallest trees.

    Several snags were scattered through the Woods, and very large windthrown trees were numerous in various stages of decay. Seems no effort has been made to remove these dead and downed trees. However, the ground was mostly flat and level, with a minimum of the pit and mound topography typical of a truly ancient forest. The implication seems that this land was clear cut and plowed in early settlement, and has reverted to forest in the last century or 150 years.

    We only wandered 200 feet into the Woods, but it was obvious the large trees and very high canopy extends deeper into these Woods.

    Clearly this forest has significant well developed old growth characteristics that deserves study by a full scale survey team visit. It may be useful to compile the survey data into a report with management recommendations to present to the village government. Also, a public school is located very nearby on the opposite side of NY 96, so an opportunity may exist to develop this Woods as a "living learning laboratory" on Forest Ecology for science classes at this school.


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