Natural Areas

The Binghamton University campus is very fortunate to be situated in a relatively large area of natural environment. Of the total of about 730 acres of University property east of Bunn Hill Road, approximately 405 acres are in a natural condition, of which about 190 acres on the south side of campus are formally designated as the Nature Preserve. Of the approximately 441 acres that run from the gate on Lehigh Ave. on the southeast side of Campus, along the East Access Road, the Connector Road, and the West Access Road to the gate on Bunn Hill Road at the southwest end of campus in this part of campus, about 117 acres of natural vegetation are designated as the Natural Areas. These Natural Areas have been so designated since 1970, but their precise limits have not been consistently defined or officially sanctioned. Most of the areas are forested; many of the forests are old and a considerable portion of them has clearly never come under the plow. But none of them are primary forests; all of them were at least cut through within the last century. Some parts of the Areas are shrubland or relatively young woodland, as they were farmed until the 1950s.

North and South Fuller Hollow Creek Woods
(formerly Newing Woods)

Forest bounded on the east by Fuller Hollow Creek, on the west and south by the East Access Road, and on the north by the Health Services, Newing College and the path to Newman House. A 50-foot swath of open area runs north to south in the eastern part of the Woods (Sun Oil pipeline). Area: 31 acres.

Much before the 1930s some of this lower land was used for farming; being that the area surrounds Fuller Hollow Creek and used to be subject to flooding, there was a supply of fairly nutrient rich soils good for farming. The aerial photos date this section of mature forest back to before the 1930s. The northern portion of the woods is extremely pitted and mounded leading to the conclusion that the area has not been farmed for at least 100 years and even then it was probably only pastured. The central southern portions of the woods are very flat and even give evidence that the area was either regularly tilled or cut. The farm area, however, must have been abandoned in the very early 1900s in order to have the level of vegetation that is present in the 1936 aerial photo. Tree cores from the Newing Woods date some trees as far back as the early 1900s; a fallen Red Oak being the oldest at approximately 100 years! The majority of trees found were estimated to have been from 45 to over 60 years old, with similar ages in the up-slope and down-slope portion of the woods. Multiple trunked trees are also present in these woods leading to two conclusions; either the area was logged and used for firewood or it was victim of fire, in this case logging is the more likely answer.

Some of the more interesting and important features found in the 31 acre Newing Woods include a vernal pool, a small wetland, a manmade lake, amphibian breeding areas, an old farm road, and Fuller Hollow Creek. Fuller Hollow Creek, into which most of the water from campus drains, flows into the Susquehanna River and might be the most important feature present in this area. At some points the creek used to meander back and forth even farther than present Murray Hill Road. When the land surrounding the creek was acquired in the late 1950s, the stream was engineered to flow in a straight path, increasing the economic and developmental values of his land east of the creek. Over the years, Fuller Hollow Creek has tried to return to its natural meandering path, however, for the purpose of protecting homeowners' property, engineers repeatedly dredge and straighten the creek instead of allowing it to naturally flow and meander.

College-in-the-Woods Woods

Forest and shrubland bounded on the north by the East Access Road and CIW, on the east and south by the Connector Road, and on the west by the recreation areas associated with Hinman College and the Visitors' Parking Lot. Area: 46 acres.

This mature stand of forest has been developing since the turn of the 20th century and probably even earlier. The boundaries for these woods include the CIW dormitory community in the north and the new dorms to the west. Since the late 1950's, however, the woods have been fragmented due to the construction of the East Access Road.

The CIW woods are also home to the famous UFO landing field. This open patch in the forest used to hold the water supply tank for campus. When the present water towers atop the preserve were constructed, this tank was removed, and the space was briefly used for a co-recreational football field. Due to the long walk required to reach the field, the students abandoned it soon after it was established. Now the field remains as great place to sit and relax or have a game of catch. An interpretive trail currently runs through these woods and gives many details regarding its history and ecology.

Campus Conifer Plantation

Located about 800 feet southwest of the campus physical facilities is a conifer plantation dating back to the 1930s. The majority of the plantation use to be cultivated land before it was planted. The northern portion, which no longer exists due to the construction of the Clearview dorm, was an apple orchard in the early '30s. The southern three-quarters of the plantation, which is still present, was planted to conifers somewhere in the mid 1950's.

An interpretive trail has just been routed though the plantation by Dr. Andrus. This trail has postings explaining the woods history, plantation forestry and succession, and the storm damage. Three posts have been placed in the ground on the uphill side of the storm clearing, these will be used as reference points, against which pictures will be taken each year to document the thickets' and forests' progression.

East Gym Woods

South of East Gym and Parking Lot E, and bisected by a 30-foot wide path and grassy verge. Area: 9.2 acres.
These woods are part of what remains from a patch of woods dating back to the early 1900's. According to the 1936 aerial photos, these woods were present then and fully vegetated. Although like much of the history of the campus, no one knows for sure what this land was used for, and in the early 1900s the current woods were split into two different parts. The southern part, which was an abandoned in the 1930s as pasture and the northern portion, was wooded and selectively logged during the same period.

Anderson Center Woods

North of Anderson Center and Fine Arts. Area: 2.6 acres.
Just west of the East Gym Woods and north of the Anderson Center is another small patch of woods. The 1936 aerial photos show a level of vegetation that suggests that by this time the land was abandoned. Before the land was vegetated it was believed to have been a pasture with a few large Sugar maples as shade trees for the animals in the pasture.

Science 2 Woods

A small patch of forest just west of Science 2. Area: 0.23 acres.
This is a very small remnant of a mature beech and maple forest present in 1937 aerial photos. It harbors some forest invertebrates, but is too small to have resident forest birds. However, it provides important cover for some mammals and birds, especially during the migration season of the latter. The beeches are dying of a prevalent fungal disease.

West Gym Woods West Cut Down for Parking Lot F3

South of tennis courts between Parking Lots F and H. Area: 1.4 acres.
This is a young to medium-aged woods dominated by red maple and white ash, with some elm, aspen, and hemlock. A grove of black locust (the only one on campus) in the southeast sector is probably an older remnant of farming days. A water leak about 20 years ago killed trees in the center, which now is quite brushy, attracting sparrows and other brushland species of birds during migration.

West Gym Woods East

East of West Gym. Area: 2.5 acres.
Fifty years ago, this was part of a field with large oaks. Most of these trees remain and have been surrounded by a young forest of red maple, red oak, black cherry, and white ash trees. It is bisected by a small path leading to the Traffic Circle.

Hillside Area

Bounded on the east by the Susquehanna Community and Parking Lots M3 and M4; on the north and west by Clearview Hall, a Physical Plant storage/refuse area and Bunn Hill Road; and on the south by Hillside Community and the West Access Road. Area: 21 acres.
All of this area was open field in the 1950s, and is now in various stages of reversion to woodland. A pine/spruce plantation on the eastern side, patches of shrubland, a line of old fencerow trees running north-south just east of Hillside, remnants of a small apple orchard, blackberry patches, and several young woods make this a highly diverse area which attracts a diversity of animals.

Information adapted from Natural Areas on the Binghamton University Campus by Julian Shepherd, Chair of the Committee on the University Environment, in consultation with Richard Andrus and John Titus, June 10, 2003.