Updated 04/11/2013 03:58 PM
Your Hometown: Robert E. Wehle State Park
Our look at state parks in Your Hometowns ends with one of New York's newest state parks. Robert E. Wehle State Park in Jefferson County was created in 2003, but unlike most parks, it's not a campground. Instead of staying the weekend or even longer, this park is designed for the day trip. With 1,100 acres and 17,000 feet of mostly undeveloped Lake Ontario shoreline, Wehle State Park has become the place for bikers and hikers. Our Brian Dwyer and photojournalist R.D. White take us North to Henderson to explore this old military training area and the man who helped make it what it is today.
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HENDERSON, N.Y. -- With unbelievable views and miles of walking trails, Robert E. Wehle State Park in Henderson is a picture perfect place to spend the day.
"It really is. It's a place that offers free access to the lake, and an expanse that's almost unknown in the entire State Park system," said Kevin Kieff, State Parks Office Regional Director.
Wehle became a state park in 2003. Its first use wa a training site for the army. Henderson sold 805 acres to the Secretary of War in 1895 for $8,500.
"The army used to come out of Madison Barracks in Sackets Harbor as early as the late 1800's and do training here, That continued right through World War II," explained Keiff.
That time is still apparent today. A shooting target wall still stands along with some old observation posts known as pill boxes.
"There are still people alive today that recall being with the Army and shooting targets both airborne and waterborne out over the lake," Keiff said.
"I was at Fort Knox with the 1st Armored Division. They formed a cadre to be sent to Pine Camp to form the 4th Armored Division," said Rick White, Army Veteran and POW.
Pine Camp is now known as Fort Drum. White is one of thousands who came here on the weekends, shortly before the United States entered World World II.
"I was with the Company B, 35th Armored, 4th Armored Division. We came down and fired off on the range here, our .03s and our .06s," said White. "We fired out and the live ammo went out into the Lake Ontario, but they had boats on each side to keep other boats from getting into the range of our projectiles."
After the war, the United States sold the land to the Wehle family, known for owning the Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester. Their son, Robert Wehle, eventually used it for a different kind of training.
Keiff said, "Mr. Wehle at a very young age, became intimately involved in raising dogs."
Over the years here, Wehle built one of the most prestigious English Pointer Kennels in the world.
"He's written books about raising his dogs and training his dogs, and in reading those you can certainly tell the man's love for the breed," noted Keiff.
When Wehle first created these kennels, he came up with a very creative name for them.
"Elhew Kennels is Wehle spelled backwards and is still a very active line of hunting dogs," said Keiff.
When Wehle went to build dog areas, it actually brought White back to these grounds some 40 years later.
"I was working at Fort Drum then. In the early 80s I would come on the weekends or vacation time," said White.
White's brother Billy was hired by Wehle to do odd jobs, including the dog areas. White would help out.
"We did mortar work on the little log cabin type building, we'd fix cages for the dogs too, build cages for the dogs," White remembered.
The cabin is part of the only developed property still here, the former Wehle home and guest cottage. While there's no camping in the park, these buildings are rented out weekly and is a popular spot for weddings, but in all, it's just a quiet spot for bikers, hikers, and families, which is what Whele always wanted.
"It's very nice to see that often they're accompanied by their dogs, which speaks to the Whele legacy of how much he loved the animals, and I think he'd be pleased to see that so many people bring their dogs here to get outdoors and enjoy the park," said Keiff.
I Love My Park Day is a new statewide effort to celebrate and enhance the state’s parks and historic sites. It’s sponsored in part by YNN and Time Warner Cable Sports Channel and will take place on Saturday, May 4th.
Volunteers from across the state will be participating in cleanup and improvement events at parks throughout the region. If you would like to take part or donate to the cause, visit www.ptny.org.