Bennett Beach Park, Evans NY

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Erik Danielsen
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Bennett Beach Park, Evans NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:10 am

Bennett beach is a pretty special little site. It has the distinction of being one of only two or three sites where old-growth eastern hemlock grows on sand dunes (or so I hear, but we'll get to that), a distinction it shares with Marcy Woods, which is almost directly across the lake in southern Ontario. Marcy Woods (as documented by Krishner in a ENTS special publication last decade) is a site in an entirely different class from Bennett beach. Bennett's two small remnant patches of accessible old growth are right on the dune ridge, fully exposed to the lake. It is not a site that produces exceptionally large trees, and so it might not impress the casual visitor, but there is no question that an isolated ecosystem composed of red oak, red and sugar maples, beech, hemlock, tulip and black cherry with a rich woodland understory flora would not reestablish itself on such a dunetop after significant human disturbance. The neighboring section of dune, dominated by black willow, cottonwood and scattered young red oak shows this clearly enough. The local parks system is to be given credit in recognizing this small section as ecologically-valuable "primary dune forest" in their park maintenance planning.
Looking down the creek that bisects the park.
Looking down the creek that bisects the park.
Entering the larger patch (to the south of the creek bridge) you are immediately met with a stately specimen of the dominant producer of big old trees here, red oak. The biggest trees here all grow on the sheltered southeastern side of the dune, with some moderate-sized trees in the middle and not much to speak of on the lake-facing side. A range of ages can be observed, though some of the middling central-dune trees display aging signs like balding bark, twisting and sinuous trunks, and high (relatively) ragged crowns. It'd be interesting to do some coring to determine how much of this is due to genuine age and how much due to the demands of living on a sand dune directly in the path of some pretty serious weather. Size may be a poor indicator on a site like this.
The first red oak you meet, at 10'3" cbh
The first red oak you meet, at 10'3" cbh
From left to right, a 10'4" cbh curvy red oak, a closer 7'1" cbh sugar maple, and a 6'3" hemlock.
From left to right, a 10'4" cbh curvy red oak, a closer 7'1" cbh sugar maple, and a 6'3" hemlock.
None of the hemlocks here show much size or age. This one has its root mass tipped partially out of the sand.
None of the hemlocks here show much size or age. This one has its root mass tipped partially out of the sand.
This bent sugar maple was nice to sit on. 10'11" cbh at narrowest point below the kink, 10'1" a foot or so above it.
This bent sugar maple was nice to sit on. 10'11" cbh at narrowest point below the kink, 10'1" a foot or so above it.
8'7" cbh black cherry and some twisted companions.
8'7" cbh black cherry and some twisted companions.
Other side of same cherry; age or exposure?
Other side of same cherry; age or exposure?
Beech does poorly here, but there were at least 6 or 7 hanging on.
Beech does poorly here, but there were at least 6 or 7 hanging on.
The full set of collected girths for this patch:
-Red Oak- 10'4" cbh
10'3" cbh
7'10" cbh (the larger stem of a pair fused at the base)
-Sugar Maple- 10'1" circumference above kink
7'1" cbh
-Black Cherry- 8'7" cbh
8'7" cbh
7'8" cbh
-Eastern Hemlock- 6'3" cbh
6'1" cbh
5'4" cbh
-American Beech- 5'11" cbh
5' 8" cbh

Back across the creek there's a grassy field between the bridge and the smaller old-growth patch. One end of the field follows the old dune's contour, and three large open-grown maples sit on the sheltered side of the ridge. A squat 12'1" cbh sugar maple in that setting is no great surprise, but the 9'3" red maple was a pleasant find and its reasonably columnar trunk makes me wonder whether these maples are planted or were present as younger trees when the primary forest on this section of the dune was thinned for parkland, left for shade.
Nice tree either way.
Nice tree either way.
Finally you reach the small patch, wedged between the creek and a tall wooden privacy fence with "no trespassing" signs all over it. Here we find an almost pure stand of thick, tall red oaks including a couple snags, and a single lonely tuliptree.
10'9" cbh oak in the foreground and a barkless oak snag behind it.
10'9" cbh oak in the foreground and a barkless oak snag behind it.
Our lonely tulip (8'8" cbh) on the left, 10'7" cbh oak on the right.
Our lonely tulip (8'8" cbh) on the left, 10'7" cbh oak on the right.
Girth set for all but a few of the trees in this patch:
-Red Oak- 11'1" cbh
10'9" cbh
10'7" cbh
10'6" cbh
-Tuliptree- 8'8" cbh

That would seem to be the end of it, and the reputed old-growth hemlocks entirely absent, until you get down to the end of the opaque wooden fence, where it's replaced by chain-link near the water. It's a painful moment, really, when you first peek through that fence and realize that the lion's share of the good stuff is over there.
These tall, high-branching hemlocks clearly did not just shoot up straight from the present manicured lawn. But note even moreso the brushy forest on the other side of the lawn...
These tall, high-branching hemlocks clearly did not just shoot up straight from the present manicured lawn. But note even moreso the brushy forest on the other side of the lawn...
This forest is mostly hemlock with some hardwoods. And they are big.
This forest is mostly hemlock with some hardwoods. And they are big.
Satellite imagery confirms that forest to be a dense patch of large-crowned conifers, and there may be a similar stand several properties south of Bennett as well. I do plan to try to contact the landowner. In addition to that, the map tells me I missed an entire forested undeveloped half of the park that happens to be across the street from the parking lot, which appears devoid of conifers but with variable (and some large) deciduous crowns. I'll be sure to check it out sometime soon.

oldgrowth52
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Joined: Mon Jun 30, 2014 11:05 am

Re: Bennett Beach Park, Evans NY

Post by oldgrowth52 » Tue Jul 01, 2014 10:44 am

Yes that is the old Pine Lodge Property. The age of the hemlock is 350 years.I would not bother the owner ,it is a sore subject with them. About ten years age they were dragged into town court for wanting to build on the property.It was a big stink cause Bruce Kershner was it on it. There is some old growth on the youth camp next to Bennett Beach on the sand dunes going to Point Breeze.

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Erik Danielsen
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Re: Bennett Beach Park, Evans NY

Post by Erik Danielsen » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:50 pm

Ah, that's too bad. Sure looks beautiful through the fence.

Thanks for the tip on the other spot, it looks attractive on the satellite view. Not sure about access, though, as the beach was posted going south. I suppose if there's a private property inbetween I can always just stay in the water to get over there... back to the GIS viewer!

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