Upon the advent of 2020 came many unprecedented shifts in life. The term “the new norm” has taken its place in COVID-19 history, begging the question: How resilient is mankind, nature, the planet?
They say that history repeats itself, which leads one to ponder past life as it unfolded upon the building of the Seneca Ordinance Depot and the arrival of WWII when Seneca and surrounding counties needed to also acquire a new norm. What comprised the 1940s family conversations surrounding rationed dinner tables? How is it that citizens remained staunch when full county blackouts left only moonlight to glint any semblance of sight across somber, shadowed countryside, and youngsters were taught bomb air raid protection practices?
Likewise, as present life unfolds beyond the fence at Deer Haven Park, on the same acreage of the former Depot, in the midst of a pandemic, can there prevail a resilience of nature, wildlife, and those who have a heart to protect it?
“We have been given the opportunity to preserve something very special in our community that is very fragile — perhaps more fragile than we realize — and to not only preserve it, but to share it with other people,” DHP Operations Manager Truman Bells confides. A huge undertaking and commitment, but there are few who would disagree that one of the many local blessings resulting from the sacrifices of 1940’ wartime was the treasure of the herd of white, whitetail deer residing at DHP.
Therefore, even with the continuing threat of COVID-19 bearing down, Park officials and volunteers are still helping to keep the environment and all wildlife within these 3,000 acres thriving, strong, and beautiful. While pregnant does birthed their young, and resident eagles returned to their decades-old nesting area, a new tour route strategy was implemented so the public could return to enjoy the Park during pandemic restrictions. The Visitor’s Center was remodeled and made COVID safe while new sales merchandise was procured.
As with any wildlife preserve, there is always so much to be done. Behind the scenes, besides fence repair, equipment upkeep, and tour route clearing and mowing, the planting of crops and embedding of 2,000 trees were accomplished! The manual removal of invasive species, such as Autumn Olive, needed addressing and a plan implemented.
Perpetually determined, DHP officials and staff continue to prod forward. The Finger Lakes area often witnesses Kelly Biery sharing rack cards, spreading the word of tours resumed, with a twist! Among others, Pam Raes and Beth Martin aced the ins and outs of new tour and merchandise software to better assist visitors. Frank Arpino, John Hunt, Marie Bells, Kate Hunt, and Priscilla Kuney help manage ways to have the tour route move smoother, as well as educate visitors. Always lending a hand at any turn are Liz Young, Joan Bells and Kyle Martin who are great assets to the team, while staff photographer Rachel Burkholder continually blesses all with her photographic eye.
“All the volunteers are fun to work with,” shares Gary Hunt, team member who began his work at DHP three years ago and has “fallen in love with the Depot deer. We are all waiting for when the bus tours can start again,” he forecasts.
Thus, resiliency still finds a home where military history, safe COVID touring opportunities, unique gift options, magical wildlife encounters, and specialty events with a great staff combine to make this free roaming wildlife refuge a trip worth taking. Perchance, have you encountered the wonders of the white, whitetail and the amazing array of wildlife and nature at DHP? It is here where a robust will of survival tenaciously dwells ... regardless of yet another earmarked page in mankind’s history book.