GOWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — A mother’s love for her daughter, and commitment to helping others is coming full-circle at Zoar Valley.
It was August of 2020 when 16 year-old Brooke Walker died after she fell hiking at Zoar Valley.
“Tomorrow is Brooke’s birthday, she would be 17,” said her mother Marla. “One of the reasons we are here is so a lot of people can celebrate lots and lots of birthdays.”
Walker is referring to the dangers Zoar Valley presents to hikers. Since her daughter’s death, she has been working tirelessly, along with other families who lost loved ones to make the dangerous terrain a safer hiking destination.
“It’s about making a difference, and we’re making a difference today,” she said.
Moving swiftly and working with these families, the New York State DEC has added over 400 safety and warning signs, has hired two new Assistant Forest Rangers to patrol the area, has restricted access to some upstream areas, added new trails that are ADA accessible and has worked with Google to improve outdated maps of the area.
“We need to educate—warning stay away from the edge,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.
Officials with the DEC say despite all the hard work and effort, some people are taking the restricted area signs and throwing them off the cliff. DEC officials say this completely defeats the purpose of safety for all.
“That is like taking signs down at a 4-way intersection,” said Seggos. “Do not take the signs down.”
Seggos says law enforcement is working on tracking down who is behind the sign theft.
The goal was to have these changes implemented by Memorial Day.
There are plans for a growing memorial to honor all lives lost at Zoar Valley.
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