DAILY DEBRIEF: Unguided tours will begin Saturday at Deer Haven Park, even as tour app remains in development – FingerLakes1.com

By Gabriel Pietrorazio

What’s the deal with Deer Haven Park? Is Saturday’s reopening of Deer Haven Park in danger?

Truman Bells, the overseer of the new touring service at Deer Haven Park in Romulus spoke exclusively with FingerLakes1.com less than one day before their highly anticipated reopening. Tours will run Saturdays from June 27th until Columbus Day Weekend.

Bells recounted a timeline starting this past winter until recent weekends, speaking candidly about the transition shifting services from the non-profit Seneca White Deer, Inc. to a new innovative touring venture led by Earl Martin.

Bells is advancing technologies at the park itself with the creation of a self-guided tour app that patrons will download ahead of arriving to Romulus to see the white deer and Seneca Army Depot. Guided tours are expected to return eventually.

The app tracks an eight-mile course that drivers follow along the pavement routes inside the fenced property as a narrator offers historical facts about the Seneca Army Depot and its wildlife inhabitants, including the illusive white deer.

All of this programming has been made possible through OnCell, a digital technology company based out of Rochester that specializes with inventing museum and outdoor tour apps, and this is only one change at Deer Haven Park – but with innovation comes its own set of challenges, and obstacles in this case.

It seems that COVID-19 has instigated yet another setback for local businesses like Deer Haven Park, causing the apps to “almost certainly not be available” ahead of tomorrow, according to Bells – due to staffing limitations.

Although he guarantees that the Apple Store iOS version will not be accessible this Saturday and there’s uncertainty as to whether the Android version will be accessible in the Google Play Store. It hasn’t stopped Bells or Earl Martin from bringing back visitors to Deer Haven Park this weekend.

Instead of downloading the specific Deer Haven Park app, patrons are being asked to acquire the OnCell company app, which would allow them to run the viable test run version of the app itself but just on a different app provider from the developers directly.

Beyond that, Deer Haven Park has removed all of the bathrooms from inside the touring and stopping shall not be allowed throughout the duration of the 60 to 90-minute tour.

Several concerns were raised, including the possibility of spooking the wildlife and causing emotional and bodily harm to the deer.

Bells shared that he purchased 4k trail cameras and hired additional “security” in the form of park staff personnel to drive around the property while patrons are present on-site each Saturday to ensure that visitors are not departing from their vehicles.

However, Seneca White Deer, Inc. just started to expand their touring services to encompass walkable hiking trails, biking paths, and even horseback rides on the property before their unforeseen closure, which did not seem to disrupt the wildlife during that time.

Although several months have passed since Seneca White Deer, Inc. closed its doors due to financial hardships that were incurred by leasing the land where Deer Haven Park resides from Earl Martin, Bells admits to not conducting a recent aerial flyover count for the total herd population, stating that they do not have “an exact or even good estimate” at this time, with just one day short of reopening.

At the same time, however, Bells insists that based on ground observations inside Deer Haven Park while prepping the area ahead of Saturday that the herd is growing, more fawn have been born – including white deer, and that they’re looking “healthier than even before” with “a little more meat on their bones.” And yet, Bells suggests that the chances of encountering a white deer are slimmer, comparing it to striking big at casino when pulling a lever, claiming that more times than not most will ultimately strike-out before seeing one of these “majestic creatures.”

Seeing the white deer in their natural habitat shall become even more of a privilege, especially with their announced schedule: Saturdays from June 27th until Columbus Day weekend – a much shorter operating schedule in comparison to Seneca White Deer, Inc. that organized tours virtually year-round, all the way through the fall and into the winter just in time for the perfect holiday pictures with fresh snowfall covering the wooded-grounds.

Bells confided that he is well-aware of the abbreviated touring calendar this season and plans for any future decisions regarding changes to when tours will run are not on the table at this time, or even remotely in sight.

In the end, excitement and anticipation fills the air ahead of tomorrow’s unveiling of the new touring services, which is being spearheaded by Bells alongside Martin, the owner of more than 3,000 acres of property as they both usher in a new era at the Seneca Army Depot.


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