Editorial: A National Treasure

A National Treasure – The White Deer of the Seneca Army Depot

Editorial from the Chairman of Seneca White Deer, Inc.

Imagine for an instant, seeing forty white deer leaping through the meadow like white ballerinas, graceful and incredibly moving to the mind. That happened to me as I was being interviewed for an article on this world class treasure for the New York Times over a year ago. The cameraman was so moved that he couldn’t even lift his camera. The clarity of that image continues in my mind, unshakeable, beautiful and exciting. I ask myself, how many other people around the world would feel the same way if they had a chance to enter the former Seneca Army Depot, and have a “Kodak moment?” Our team, Seneca White Deer Inc. is proposing to Seneca County that investing in eco touring, i.e. nature touring, will both generate jobs and revenue for the county while protecting this national treasure, the world’s largest herd of white deer.

Eco touring is a multi billion dollar business around the world but isn’t currently practiced, except for whale watching, in the Northeast. Imagine such a feast for the eyes and the mind of entering the ‘white deer conservation park”, driving along roads built in 1941, feeling the presence of the Cold War era, seeing empty munitions bunkers, 519 in all, cruising through the “special weapons” area with the triple walled fence, gazing upwards to see one of four osprey nests on the Depot, watching thousands of geese and ducks dabbling in duck soup on the 60 acre pond and, of course, the incredible beauty of the white deer. Wow, what an incredible journey, all contained in 7500 acres of the former Depot and waiting to be discovered by you, the public!

Tourism is New York’s second largest industry. Twenty three million people visit the Finger Lakes region each year. One million visit the wineries; the other 22 million visit the parks, beaches, lakes and other attractions of the area. Seneca White Deer feels strongly that developing a white deer park would increase the number of visitors to the Finger Lake region which would cause additional spill over to the other popular attractions and wineries. All would gain in increased revenues while protecting this truly unique resource.

However, such an idea may never happen as a proposed Master Land Use Plan for the Depot is only allowing 1450 acres for conservation while several areas are being targeted for development. The natural resources of the Depot would be significantly impacted, perhaps totally destroyed, under this proposed scenario. You don’t have to be brain surgeon to see and feel the seriousness of this proposal. At the Depot is the world’s largest herd of white deer, truly a national treasure, that was fostered by the military for over 60 years. What an absolutely incredible tourist attraction in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world! From my experience, once people find out about the incredible natural treasures found within the Depot they also become passionate. People from around the world (i.e. Russia!) have sent their support, school groups from several states and former military police who served at the Depot have all been strong supporters. They feel the magic of the “ghost deer”, the white deer of the Depot. Two plus two equals five ladies and gentlemen! To impact or destroy this truly national treasure would be a mortal sin. What better way to put a former military base, which supplied munitions for many wars to bed, than to convert it into a conservation park? A park unlike no other in the entire world, the “White Deer Park of the Finger Lakes!”

What can be done? Let the legislators of Seneca County as well as the Seneca County Chamber of Commerce know of your concerns. To showcase the natural resources of the Depot requires a large amount of land, much more than the proposed 1450 acres. This is a no brainer. The white deer and the other abundant natural resources should be preserved for the entire world to marvel at just like the day when the 40 ballerina’s moved my heart and soul. Are you ready to be moved too?

Dennis Money
Chair, Seneca White Deer, Inc.