Wildlife and Recreation Instead of Houses

Land Trust Project

Once slated to become a housing subdivision, York Land Trust’s 151-acre Highland Farm Preserve now features old fields, vernal pools, a mix of different-aged forest, and abundant wildlife.

In 2010, conservationists used a timber harvest to create 18 acres of young forest. A brontosaurus (a tracked machine with a high-powered cutting head) browsed back smaller trees that were not part of the commercial logging job.

eastern towhee perched in small tree
Ed Guthro
Eastern towhees are among the birds, both migratory and resident, that find food and cover at Highland Farm Preserve.

Workers built brush piles, planted native shrubs like dogwood and elderberry, and removed invasive plants. These habitat improvements help both rare and common wildlife including New England cottontail, American woodcock, ruffed grouse, wild turkey, songbirds, black racer (a nonvenomous snake), turtles, and pollinators.

Wildlife Moves Through Corridors

Winding through 10 acres of old fields is a stream drainage grown up with alder shrubs, a brushy, 40-foot-wide habitat corridor that links Highland Farm to shrub swamps along nearby York River. Rabbits and other animals use such cover to move from one area to another to find food or mates or to disperse from the place where they were born.

Conservationists plan to keep at least 15 to 20 connected acres of dense, regrowing young forest and shrubland on Highland Farm Preserve into the future.

How to Visit

A parking lot and information kiosk lie west of the cottontail management area. The preserve is open for quiet, low-impact day-use activities such as hiking, skiing, and snowshoeing. The New England Cottontail Trail circles the young forest area.