Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lennox Memorial Forest

Back in the 1927 John Lennox became the first director of Camp Shankitunk, which is now the oldest continuously operating 4-H camp in New York State. Sixty years later, upon his passing, Lennox’ intention to preserve his adjacent 144-acre estate as an outdoor classroom for future generations began to take shape. 

Opened in 1998, the Lennox Memorial Forest became the first operational model forest in the New York City Watershed Model Forest Program and continues to serve a range of educational purposes. Located directly across from Camp Shankitunk on Arbor Hill Road in Delhi, the Forest property encompasses much of the adjacent mountainside and reaches above 2000’ in elevation, some 700’ above the nearby West Branch of the Delaware River. (PLEASE NOTE: Visitors may access the property’s entry area where there is an information kiosk; however, those wishing to access the interior of Lenox Memorial Forest must contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County at (607) 865-6531.)

A prominent sign for the Forest is found 2.65 miles from Route 28 on Arbor Hill Road. The kiosk’s panels set the Forest in the larger context of the NYC Watershed and provide specifics on the sustainable forestry practices used on the property. Beyond the gate, the main path climbs steadily, passing Turtle Rock and Monkey Face Rock. Keeping to the left at the first junction will bring the hiker sharply uphill through a tall stand of hemlocks and impressive rock outcroppings. This section exhibits much of the essence of a Catskill Mountain hike, and it helps one appreciate the public access afforded by Lennox Forest. 

Once above the hemlocks, the trail curls to the south and eventually levels. A short foot trail leads to the west and quickly reaches a lean-to and a grand overlook. This area is used by 4-H campers, who learn outdoor skills on overnight trips during the six weeks of summer when the camp is in operation. (When the camp is not in session, permission to hike on Camp Shankitunk property -- between Arbor Hill Road and the Delaware River -- may also be granted.)

The major trails in the Forest are actually roads that are used primarily for forestry management purposes, and several of these are connecting loops. An alternate ascent to the top of the property is found by staying to the right at the first junction beyond the entry gate and climbing the long switchback road. These roads are illustrated on the both the Forest Management Plan and Map, found at: development/JohnLennoxMemorialForest.aspx
The plan shows the many types of management blocks and their related practices that the roads pass through. With this plan in hand, the walker will get a sense of the sustainable forestry techniques along the way, some of which are explained in more detail at the kiosk. 

To learn even more about the Forest, visitors can participate in the periodic workshops and tours that are offered. Event schedules and additional information can be obtained when contacting Cornell Cooperative Extension