South Hill Natural Area - West
Adjacent to the west side of the main campus across State Route 96B/Danby Road, South Hill Natural Area – West (SHNA-West) was acquired around the time of the first South Hill land acquisition, although the exact date is unknown. The historical land use of SHNA-West was pasture and agricultural fields until the late 1960s to early 1970s, according to historical aerial photos. Nowadays, SHNA - West has become a focus for ICNL's educational mission as a fieldwork site for several ENVS courses.
Currently, SHNA-West has a mixture of land-cover types, including large areas of heavily invaded shrublands and shrubby-understory forest, white pine stands, and mixed hardwoods. With the exception of historical fence rows and riparian corridors, the forest stands of SHNA-West appear to be less than 40 years old--young compared to some portions of South Hill. This reserve contains regularly flowing streams in mini-gorges, one of which is lined with unusual (and yet unidentified) species of hybrid ash trees (Fraxinus spp.). Some areas, particularly along the eastern margins of the reserve, are dominated by invasive exotic shrubs including multiflora rose (Rosa Multiflora) and privet (Ligustrum spp.). At the center of the reserve is a junction of historical stonewalls and fencerows with old, well-developed nut- and fruit-bearing trees, such as hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), black walnut (Juglans nigra), and black cherry (Prunus serotina).
The perennial streams and riparian trees of SHNA-West warrant protection for their rarity within Ithaca College’s natural land portfolio. The main priority for this reserve, however, is regenerative use. This should be achieved through a mixture of managed successional re-growth, sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products, invasive exotic species management, and selective forest thinning. A showcase example is the successional grove site where historical land use remains are abundant. This trapezoid-shaped central plot is now known as the Regenerative Use Area (RUA). A trail system, built in 2011-2012, facilitates access, concentrates impact, and promotes field research. A map of the new trail system is available on our website, here.
Education & Research:
SHNA - West is one of the more accessible of ICNL’s reserves, located within walking distance from campus and less rugged in topography than SHNA-East. Thus, SHNA-West offers a prime location for teaching. Environmental Sentinels (ENVS 120) and Land Use and Landscape Change (ENVS 331) courses increasingly use the area for field exercises, particularly involving historical land use and stewardship.