We are fortunate here in Allegany County to be surrounded by over 60,000 acres of public lands, all of which are available for both residents and visitors to experience year round, but become even more accessible during the warm late spring and summer months. Within this county alone, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) manages 23 State Forests, 4 Wildlife Management Areas, the Wellsville-Addison-Galeton (WAG) Trail, and numerous fishing and boating access sites. There are also several county managed forests which are open to public use; the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail, operated by NYS Parks; and the Finger Lakes Trail, which crosses our county on both public and private lands, on its route across the state between Allegany State Park and the Catskill Forest Preserve.
From Plumbottom State Forest in Amity and Ward, to the Genesee Valley Wildlife Management Area in Granger, to Palmer’s Pond State Forest in West Almond, DEC’s land parcels offer something for everyone who looking to spend time outside this summer. Remember that these lands are YOURS; they belong to you. As such YOU have the responsibility to take care of them so that they will be there for future generations by following a few simple rules that are in place to ensure the areas are left in a pristine condition and to protect the natural environment, as well as to protect the people using these areas:
- No cutting of live trees or vegetation.
- Take all garbage home with you; leave the area clean.
- Campfires must be attended to at all times, and extinguished fully upon departure. Most wildfires are human caused and preventable.
- Keep vehicles on designated roadways or parking areas. ATVs are prohibited (except with a disability permit on designated trails).
- Underage alcohol possession is prohibited.
For more information on additional regulations on DEC lands, check the website listed at the end of this article, or call a Forest Ranger, who will be glad to answer any questions you may have. It is important to be aware of what classification of state land you are visiting. For example, on State Forests, you may camp most anywhere you please (with some exceptions), provided your tent site selected is at least 150 feet from roads, trails, or water, or on a designated site. (There are a few designated campsites along roads or next to water in many of the State Forests.) However, on Wildlife Management Areas, camping is generally prohibited, except with some exceptions in designated sites and under permit. Camping on state land in Allegany County is free, and (on State Forests) you only need a camping permit if you are staying for more than 3 nights, or have 10 or more people in your group. These are available for free by contacting a Forest Ranger in advance.
Keep in mind, this is a rustic form of camping; these are not State Parks, so you will need to be prepared. There are no restroom or water facilities. Boil water for at least one minute if used for drinking. There is no garbage pickup. Clear flammable material from around your fire ring. You may use any firewood you find on site, if it is dead and down. Do not bring firewood from outside the area, in order to prevent the spread of destructive insect pests to our forests, such as the Emerald Ash Borer, and others.
Boating in Allegany County is popular on Cuba and Rushford Lakes. Canoes and kayaks may also be used on Alma Pond, Allen Lake, the Genesee River, and several other smaller public ponds and water bodies. The Genesee River has seen a large increase in the number of paddlers in recent years, thanks to a joint partnership in access development coordinated by the non-profit organization, Genesee River Wilds. Wherever you go, plan ahead and prepare; stay within your skill level; wear a properly fitting life vest; and if you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. All these waters are open for fishing, provided you are properly licensed. (You only need a license once you turn 16.) A great time to get out and try it, if you don’t yet have one, is DEC’s annual Free Fishing Weekend, which this year takes place on June 29 and 30th.
Aside from the moderate to long distance trails mentioned above, hiking is available across all state lands in Allegany County. Stay on marked trails if you are a novice. The DEC lands have many access roads with limited traffic that are good for walking; some of these are gated and also open to hiking. Carry a map and compass and GPS, especially if you plan to go off trails – and know how to use them. Tell somebody where you are going and when you expect to return. Keep yourself well hydrated to avoid dehydration. Be prepared for any situation, even accidentally still being in the woods after dark! Do not hesitate to call 911 if you think you are lost, or if you think somebody you know has not returned when they should. One of the Forest Rangers’ primary responsibilities, along with state land law enforcement and wildfire management is search and rescue in our wooded areas.
There are many other activities for you to enjoy on DEC lands in Allegany County in the summer, other than those already discussed, depending on your interests: geocaching / orienteering; nature viewing and photography; swimming / wading (allowed on State Forests, but not on Wildlife Management Areas); mountain biking; trail running; and horseback riding, to name a few.
“Whatever you choose to spend your time outside this summer, have fun, and please be safe!” – Justin Thaine, NYS DEC Forest Ranger
For more information:
NYS DEC – select ‘Recreation’, then ‘Destinations’
NYS DEC Lands and Forests office (located in West Almond), 585-466-3241
NYS DEC Forest Rangers in Allegany County: 585-415-1521 and 585-403-9574