PERSIA – A group of people was ticketed Saturday night for trespassing on private land areas of Zoar South Branch gorge in Cattaraugus County, officials said.
Visitors to Zoar Valley who venture upstream on the South Branch of the Cattaraugus Creek to access waterfalls are trespassing onto private land, according to William Cain, coordinator of Zoar South Branch Safety Education Outreach.
It’s an “ongoing problem,” he said.
“The falls is off limits,” he said. “It’s been posted for well over a decade. Bottom line is it’s being vigorously enforced with trespassing tickets.”
Cain said he saw officers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office and State Police on Saturday night in the DEC’s Forty Road parking lot. He said the group numbered about two dozen people, but was unsure how many of them were given tickets.
The Sheriff’s Office confirmed that tickets for trespassing were issued but referred additional questions about the incident to the state DEC, which did not return calls late Sunday.
A page for Zoar Valley on the state DEC website specifically notes, “The public land upstream from the Forty Road parking lot adjacent to the Deerlick Nature Preserve on the South Branch of the Cattaraugus Creek is also restricted to access.”
Cain encouraged 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.
Venturing upstream instead onto the private land, much of which is owned by the Nature Conservancy and the Nature Sanctuary of Western New York Inc., can be dangerous for visitors, he said.
Rescues can also be dangerous and costly for the local community and first responders, he added.
“It’s a matter of safety and preservation of the resource,” Cain said.
Volunteers from the Niagara Frontier Search & Rescue Team who monitor the land’s border area and tell people to go downstream instead have helped reduce the number of incidents in the isolated and secluded area.
“It’s a lot easier preventing rescues than making rescues,” Cain said. “They have been helping us with staffing and patrolling that on the crowded days, principally weekends.”