For three weekends in October last year, the mysteries of the former Seneca Army Depot were revealed to more than 1,500 visitors who attended Seneca White Deer’s Military History Tours program. All tours were sold out weeks before they took place, and every seat was filled as the buses left the Varick Fire House where the tours started.
SWD President (and weekend tour guide) Dennis Money said, “The people on the tours were fascinated by their glimpse behind the fence. We are very gratified by the success of the tours and the enthusiasm of the people who took them.”
Comments from the questionnaires distributed to those on the 2012 tours were very positive and confirmed SWD’s belief that the public really values the opportunity to see the white deer and the military artifacts that remain within the secured areas of the former Depot.
No tours in 2013
SWD has approached the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which owns the former Depot and controls access to it, about the possibility of tours in 2013. The IDA staff responded, as they have before, that access to the Depot for tours is not possible, pointing to a policy of “no longer pursuing short-term uses…”
Although SWD has noted that our tours lay the ground work for productive long-term use of the now vacant property, the IDA’s staff response noted, “The policy of our board has not changed, and the staff resources to coordinate and administrate this kind of use is just not available.” In spite of this, SWD will continue to work with the IDA and its staff to find ways to protect the wildlife and preserve the military history of the former Depot.
The “Q” area also appears to be unavailable for tours in the future because of requirements for the secure storage facilities operated there by the Finger Lakes Technologies Group. SWD is grateful to FLTG for allowing our tour program to enter their facilities in 2012.
“Q” Secrets Revealed in 2012
The 2012 tours visited only the “Q” area, which is located at the northern end of the former Depot. The “Q” was the most secure area of the Depot and reputedly stored nuclear weapons. The “Q” at the Seneca Army Depot has always intrigued the public and was one of less than two dozen ever built around the world by the US government.
Visitors saw the high-security, electrified three-layer fence that surrounds the “Q”, the highly fortified Military Police headquarters, and even stopped to tour one of the underground igloos that reputedly held the Army’s largest cache of strategic nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
A tour guide dressed as an MP from the 1970s explained security procedures and showed the visitors inside the igloo. Security in the area is still maintained to provide protection for the storage facilities maintained by Finger Lakes Technologies Group, which leases the area from the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency.
Deer and Other Wildlife on Every Tour
In addition to the many military structures and facilities in the “Q”, visitors also saw abundant wildlife. Deer greeted every tour and most, if not all buses got a close up look at the Depot’s most famous residents, the famed Seneca White Deer. Tour buses stopped frequently to allow passengers to photograph the wildlife.
Tour guide Carl Patrick notes, “Although the deer were not the main focus of the tours, many visitors seemed to enjoy seeing them as much as the military history that surrounded them. We saw some of the white ones very close to the buses.”