A highlight of the Finger Lakes Trail, this wooded 48-acre preserve in Enfield — just west of Ithaca — offers ideal options for an easy walk or connection to a much longer, more challenging hike. Owned by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference subject to a conservation easement held by the Finger Lakes Land Trust, the Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve features some of our region’s oldest, most majestic sugar maples.
Starting from the parking area on Rockwell Road, the trail leads through a grove into a large meadow, once a hayfield, now rife with goldenrod and other wildflowers. At a fork in the trail, a yellow-blazed path leads to the “old-growth loop,” which passes by the preserve’s tallest maples, thought to be 300 years old. It is remarkable that they have survived through the centuries, despite intense market demand for their wood. The maples were also never tapped for sugar, thus escaping added vulnerability to fungal spores and decay.
In another direction, the trail leads to an overlook, where visitors can see both active and retired farms, clear across the valley of Enfield Creek to the wooded slopes on the other side. This vista is truly stunning during peak autumn foliage, but well worth a stop at all times of year. The trail continues into younger successional woods, past a lean-to shelter, over dry stream beds, and eventually back to more mature hardwood forest along the Finger Lakes Trail.
About half a mile of the Finger Lakes Trail runs across the preserve, connecting across Porter Hill Road to Riemen Woods, also owned by the Finger Lakes Trail Conference. The Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve is close to the Land Trust’s Stevenson Forest Preserve, Robert H. Treman State Park, and other conserved lands. Together these lands are a part of the Emerald Necklace, an ambitious effort to link more than 50,000 acres of protected land in a continuous corridor around Ithaca. See the Emerald Necklace identified as a priority in our Regional Conservation Agenda.
The land of the Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve was once part of the Central New York Military Tract, a vast territory set aside by Congress and the state legislature of New York as a bounty for soldiers enlisting in the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800s, Samuel Harvey purchased the land. The property then was passed on through many generations of Harvey’s direct descendants in the Harvey and Bock families.
Throughout their centuries of ownership, the Bock and Harvey families cherished and faithfully protected their land, including those grand old maples. Then, in 2012, the Bock family approached the Land Trust about donating their land and ensuring its protection in perpetuity. Recognizing the importance of the property to hikers, the Land Trust engaged the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC) and the Cayuga Trails Club (CTC) in a partnership. All parties agreed that the land would be conveyed to the FLTC, with the Land Trust holding a conservation easement and the CTC assisting with maintenance and outreach.
The shelter, named the “Locust Lean-To” for its location among black locust trees, was built out of tamarack logs by the Finger Lakes Trail Alley Cats and volunteers from the Cayuga Trails Club in June 2015. This site also features a fire pit, picnic table, and a fenced privy nearby.