Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

New York white deer herd about to become a tourist attraction

Romulus, N.Y. — The first tangible sign that the former Seneca Army Depot, best known for its famous white deer herd, is about to become a tourist attraction is nearing completion.

When Seneca Iron Works owner Earl Martin purchased the 7,000-acre former World War II ordnance dumping site last year from the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency, he promised to not only preserve the white deer herd, but to turn their presence into a magnet for tourist dollars.

Martin, through his corporation Deer Haven Park LLC, has worked closely in that endeavor with Seneca White Deer Inc., a private group that has advocated for the preservation of the white deer herd.

Bus tours of the depot property are expected to start this fall, and the first step toward facilitating that move – creation of a visitor center – is nearly complete, said Seneca White Deer President Dennis Money.

The 1,800-square-foot building will be known as the John and Josephine Ingle Welcome Center, in honor of the owners of Heron Hill Winery on Keuka Lake, who pledged $200,000 toward the white deer preservation effort.

The center was scheduled to be completed by early October, Money said.

“Then we have to obtain the certificate of occupancy before we will start tours, which we hope to begin the third week in October and run Thursday through Sunday, at least until early December, and then just weekends unless demand is high,” he said. “We will operate year-round, expecting to have fall, winter and early spring as our best tour months, as the deer will be ‘naked’ with no leaves to hide them, and people will enjoy the abundance of turkeys, deer, raptors, etc. and have their ‘Kodak’ moment.”

Tours will continue during the summer months, even as foliage fills out and obscures some of the views, but those tours will take place mostly in the early morning and late afternoon, and activities will focus more on conservation-based programs for young people and other groups, Money said.

The welcome center will contain exhibits, concessions, merchandise and a beverage bar, along with streaming videos that Money took with his trail cameras, he said. Online registration will be available on the group’s newly designed website soon, enabling people to pick the date and time they would like to visit.

The white deer herd at the former depot – which are not true albinos, as they have brown, not pink eyes – have been attracting attention for more than 70 years.

In 1941, when the U.S. Army built the Seneca Army Depot in response to World War II, a small number of the mutated deer were trapped inside the fence that was built around the site. Isolated from predators and humans, the herd gradually increased in size.

The depot was decommissioned in 2000, and when the Army announced a few years ago that it would sell the property, Seneca White Deer and other groups were concerned that without protection the white deer herd would be quickly killed off.

With the future of the herd now secure, Money believes they will become a valuable asset for the region.

“We are extremely excited about showcasing the depot and its wildlife to the world and to promote conservation,” Money said. “The revenues will be used to improve habitat for the wildlife and to enhance the economy of Seneca County and the Finger Lakes.”

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