By: Alexandra Silva

Situated in the northwest corner of the Adirondack Park, within the town of Parishville, NY, lies the forest property affectionately known as Little Hill. Deceptively named, the property actually covers 240 acres of land, including a portion of Dead Creek, which flows into the backside of Blake Reservoir. Originally farmland, the property is currently in its 3rd generation of ownership by the Coupal family. First purchased from Niagara Mohawk in 1948 by Edward and Gladys Coupal, the property was 192 acres and then expanded to 240 acres in 1964. It was then passed on to Robert and Barbara Coupal, and finally to Bob and Sally Coupal, the current owners.

Aside from their work on Little Hill, Bob and Sally started their own business in 1995, Micro Precision Components Inc., which imports high precision machined parts from Switzerland and distributes them across the country from their sales and engineering office located in Victor, NY. Bob also coaches youth soccer, while acting as the director of coaching for the Bloomfield soccer program. Along with her duties as a corporate officer of Micro Precision, Sally volunteers at the local elementary school. Their 5 year old son, Jason Taylor (J.T.), is already enamored with all aspects of the forest and will become the 4th generation owner. Though Bob, Sally, and J.T. are the primary managers of Little Hill, the entire Coupal family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, contributes in some way to maintaining the property.

While a significant portion of the land consists of water and marsh, there is also plateau. In the plateau section of the property, the soil ranges from gravel to sandy loam. Other sections offer extremely large, picturesque boulders and bedrock within the property boundaries. In 1948, the grandparents of Bob Coupal teamed with the local DEC office and drew up a management plan, which included planting 38,000 trees on the portion of the property that could be cultivated. White pine and white spruce flourished in what was a main farming field, however a plantation of Scotch pine alongside the road did not fair as well. The Scotch pine was, unfortunately, the “bad strain” and yielded mostly malformed trees.

While Bob’s father was a member of NYFOA for some time during his ownership, it wasn’t until after the devastating Ice Storm of ’98 that Bob and Sally became involved. “The Ice Storm of 1998 made a huge impact on our forest, despite being less than a mile inside the ice line,” as Bob stated. It was just after a 3 year logging project of the forest (wintertime only), while the remaining stems were exposed, that the storm occurred, leaving “1-3 inches of ice.” Approximately 30 hours were spent chain-sawing fallen trees in order to clear the road, which had become so blocked that it was impossible to reach the family cabin. Even now, 8 years later, the damage done is still evident despite the strong regeneration of the forest. Stated plainly by Bob, “In many parts of our forest it’s best to not look up.”

Though it was an unfortunate occurrence, the Ice Storm allowed the Coupal family to focus on trail making, which has proven to be their biggest accomplishment. The trail network running through the property required extensive and detailed planning, but succeeded nonetheless. Coupled with the trails, the re-sprouting of hardwood trees after the storm was a pleasing sight. Hardwood tree planting had been a time consuming and painstaking process for the Coupal family, and has met with only mediocre success. However, the self-healing power of the forest has been proven, yet again, with the revival of the hardwoods.

Unfortunately, Bob, Sally and J.T. must now face a Forest Tent Caterpillar infestation of Little Hill, which is still in recovery. Fearing the losses will be severe, the Coupal family realized that they must instead shift their attention and energy to aspects of the forest which are under their control. Working with forestry professionals, such as Don Brown, Mike Farrell and Jeff Luoma, has been of great help to the Coupal’s. NYFOA, as well, has contributed to the success of Little Hill, through its educational materials, seminars, and camaraderie. Discussing and observing what fellow forest owners are doing has been of great help when deciding what sort of action to take with their own property. Though Little Hill is a 4.5 hour drive from the Coupal residence in Bloomfield, the property is of great sentimental value, and will be a part of the family for generations to come.

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