It’s been a year of progress and learning for Seneca White Deer, Inc.
Since the private acquisition of the former Seneca Army Depot, which spans more than 7,000 acres, a number of positive improvements have been made at the site, which now houses that aforementioned organization. Giving tours, promoting the rich history of the site, and working to preserve the herd of unique white deer have taken up much of the organization’s time in 2018.
In 2017, when tours officially began following a lengthy hiatus, Seneca White Deer, Inc. went to work. “We had some experience with the tours, but operating as a business was new for us,” explained Dennis Money, president of Seneca White Deer, Inc. “We did have some background, but it was a totally new experience having a welcome center to operate from, having to hire tour guides and training volunteers on how to conduct tours individually.”
The organization also had to find buses, plan routes for tours and ensure that marketing was appropriate to keep the bills paid. “It was such an exciting time, and we’re still learning,” Money added. He noted that more than 8,000 people came to visit the former depot, which is now referred to as Deer Haven Park. It’s a site that is managed to ensure that the white deer herd is maintained.
“At last count, we figured there were about 70 to 80 white deer on the site,” explained Money, who said the count was executed in-air with a helicopter. “That count was done during the winter, and we hope to accomplish another similar count in the coming months.” He couldn’t forecast expectations around the next count but assumed that the herd would still rank in the 70 to 80 range.
Marketing has been the big challenge. Given that Seneca White Deer, Inc. hasn’t had a tremendous budget, outreach efforts have largely been accomplished via social media. “It’s amazing how many people we can reach on social media and through speaking engagements,” explained Carl Patrick. He serves as vice president on the Seneca White Deer, Inc. board. “It’s really a fantastic place to visit and be involved with, and it’s a lot closer to folks throughout the region than they typically associate.”
Money said that focus in 2019 is on continuing to market the park, which has become a big player in the regional tourism industry. “Obviously, a lot of folks know us for wine, and it’s undeniable how much of an impact wines have had on our region’s tourism, but we offer something unique, and we’ve seen so much support from the community.”
Patrick noted that celebrating and marketing the history of the site is also particularly exciting. “This aspect of it is so unique, and there’s so much history out there on the site. We’ve seen all sorts of individuals come out to enjoy the tour,” he explained. Tours are run throughout the week and last around 90 minutes. Those interested in signing up for a tour can visit their website to learn more.
It’s not one particular person or group that finds appeal in the White Deer tours at the former Seneca Army Depot. “We’ve had employees from the depot who were only allowed to see certain parts of the operation, and their desire to see the rest of it brought them back,” Patrick continued. “It’s very much a community.”
That’s been a major selling point for white deer tour organizers, who are incredibly excited about 2019. “People might not think about wintertime as a great opportunity to visit us,” added Money. “But that’s when the deer really stand out, given the reduction in foliage.”
To see everything Seneca White Deer, Inc. has going on this holiday season and in 2019, visit their website at senecawhitedeer.org, and booking a tour is as simple as clicking on the ‘Book a Tour’ tab at the top of their homepage.