Hewitt State Forest
Hewitt State Forest, also known as Cortland Reforestation Area #1, is New York State's first State Forest. The Forest is located in the town of Scott in Cortland County, just off of State Highway 41 on Hewitt Road. The forest was established between 1929 and 1942 to reduce soil erosion, produce forest products, help stabilize the tax base, and provide recreational opportunities. Most of the landscape was cleared of trees for agriculture during the mid-to-late 19th century by European settlers. Between 1929 and 1947 approximately 1,056,872 pine, spruce, cedar, dogwood and red oak were planted by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp S-96 based in Sempronius, New York. Today, the forest provides a diverse group of ecological, economic, and recreational services.
Hewitt State Forest is located in Scott, NY. The town of Scott was originally part of the town of Preble. On April 14, 1815 the town split into two separate towns-Scott and Preble. The town derived its name from General Winfield Scott who was a U.S. General, Diplomat, and presidential candidate. Scott holds the record for serving the longest amount of time as a U.S. General. In 1852 General Scott received the title of Lieutenant General. He was the first person to hold this office since George Washington. It is interesting to note that General Scott earned the nickname of "Old Fuss and Feathers" due to his tendency to insist upon proper military appearance and discipline from the US Army, which was primarily made up of volunteers.
Although the town of Scott was not formally incorporated until 1815, settlers arrived in the area as early as 1799. These first settlers were Peleg and Solomon Babcock and Asa Howard who came from Leyden, Massachusetts to settle on lot 82 in current day Scott. The following year George Dennison from Vermont and Cornish Messenger and Daniel Jakeway from DeRuyter arrived and settled on lot 92.
These first settlers claimed the area had an abundance of wildlife, which was both problematic and helpful. For instance, bears were troublesome because they were predators, and tended to destroy the settlers' corn crop. However, because bears were so abundant, the settlers could hunt them. On one such hunt three settlers set out to track and kill a notorious predator, but never succeeded in finding it. After a brief while of searching in vain for the bear, one of the hunters gave up the hunt while the other two pushed forward. These two had no luck finding the bear either, but they succeeded in finding another bear known to be a nuisance. They shot the second bear instead, but they only wounded it. Eight miles later they finally killed it and made bear skin caps from its hide to commemorate the event. Deer were also a nuisance animal because of their numbers and tendency to consume crops. One settler boasted of his ability to kill seven deer while searching for a proper sapling from which to make a broom stick.
From the time of first European inhabitants to around 1865, the town of Scott grew to a population of about 1,149. Settlers were spread throughout the town's 12,928 acres and there were a number of sawmills and gristmills which dotted the landscape. The land surrounding the town was primarily used for agricultural purposes and still remains that way today with the exception of 937 acres reserved for Hewitt State Forest.
Unfortunately for the early farmers, Scott's soil was not conducive for agriculture. As in most New York State Forests in Cortland County, the soil of the area is classified as Lordstown-Volusia-Mardin or "LVM." LVM mostly consists of shallow to moderately deep soils with a fragipan. Due to the area's soil make-up many farms became non-profitable around the time of the Great Depression and were sold to the State for reforestation.
According to the Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands State Forests Unit Management plan, Hewitt State Forest was the first New York State Forest to be established. "This State Reforestation Area", as it was called then, was named after Senator Charles J Hewitt from nearby Locke. Senator Hewitt was the sponsor of the Hewitt Reforestation Act that established State Forests outside of the Forest Preserves. On October 3, 1929, in an impressive ceremony, four Norway Spruce from the State Nursery at Saratoga, were planted on the former Harmon Farm. Planting these trees were: Nelson C. Brown, acting Dean of the State College of Forestry in Syracuse, who represented Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt; Senator Charles J. Hewitt; Conservation Commissioner Alexander Macdonald; and George D. Pratt, President of the American Forestry Association and a former Conservation Commissioner.
Hewitt State Forest is a popular area for recreational activities such as: hunting, hiking, fishing, bird watching, camping, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, trapping, and snowshoeing. The only formal trail on Hewitt State Forest is a 2.5 mile snowmobile trail. The trail is part of corridor trail 5A, which provides snowmobiling between Auburn, Dryden, Cortland, Moravia, and Preble.
Hewitt State Forest is part of the Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands Unit Management Plan. A Unit Management Plan (UMP) guides the DEC's land management activities on several geographically related forests for a ten-year period, although a number of goals and objectives in the plan focus on a much longer time period. Each UMP addresses specific objectives and actions for public use and forest management. A copy of the Hewitt-Cayuga Highlands UMP is available at the Lands and Forests Office in Cortland.
Anyone enjoying the use of this State Forest must observe the following rules which protect them and the forest environment:
- Do not litter. Carry out what you carry in. Burying of refuse is prohibited.
- If you build a fire, do so with care and use wood from dead and downed trees only. Never leave a fire unattended.
- All motorized vehicles are restricted to access roads posted as motor vehicle trails. Off road use of motorized vehicles, such as ATVs, trail bikes and four-wheel drives is not allowed, except where specifically permitted by signs, posted notice or by DEC permit.
- Camping for more than three nights or in a group of ten or more requires a permit from a Forest Ranger. Camping is prohibited within 150 feet of water, roads or trail.
- No permanent structures should be established, including tree stands or blinds.
To access the forest, take State Rt. 41 south to Old State Road West. Make a left turn onto Old State Road West. Go to intersection of Brake Hill Road. Turn left again. Brake Hill Road runs through the forest. Coming from the south take State 41 North and make a right onto Old State Road West. Follow directions above from here.
State Forest Office (M-F 8am-4pm): 607-753-3095, ext. 217
Forest Ranger (Law Enforcement/Emergencies): 607-283-1159
DEC Forest Ranger Dispatch: 518-408-5850