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Letter: It is wrong to put Zoar Valley in the same category as a park

It is wrong to put Zoar Valley in the same category as a park

I have some serious issues concerning the page one News article that encourages readers to visit Zoar Valley.

Zoar Valley is unique to the other listed sites because it is a wilderness area and not, as indicated on the interactive map, a park. There are no signs of human civilization there, which makes it attractive to visitors seeking solitude. Yet, ironically, this has caused it to be loved to death.

When overnight camping was banned in the Zoar state lands in 1972 due to the garbage left and destruction caused by visitors, the Department of Environmental Conservation regional administrator was quoted in the press that: “Limited parking is a good thing: the resource (Zoar) will not take the pressure people would put on it.”

In the years since, problems developed in the private land areas of Zoar South Branch gorge where publicity from the guide books “Secret Places” and “Beyond Buffalo” published in the 1990s advocated trespassing on a secluded South Branch waterfalls situated on private land. There developed a direct point in time relationship between this publicity and the numerous rescue missions, injuries and deaths centered in the Zoar South Branch.

Law enforcement officers and volunteers from the Nature Conservancy and the Nature Sanctuary of Western New York Inc., which owns much of this land, have monitored the border of this private land (forming the Zoar South Branch Safety Education Outreach). We encourage visitors to stay on and enjoy the public land downstream from the DEC Forty Road parking lot in the South Branch gorge to avoid being arrested for trespassing upstream. For close to a decade that we have been monitoring this, the Zoar South Branch incidents have virtually disappeared.

But what has not received publicity over the past 10 years is that hundreds of visitors have been ticketed for trespassing, with each paying three-figure amounts in fines. You can call it tough love, but we would rather see these mostly young adults in court rather than in body bags or stretchers.

William Cain

Coordinator, Zoar South Branch Safety Education Outreach

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