Tag Archives: Great Bear Recreation Area

Great Bear is latest addition to Volkssporting Itinerary

Members of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and Finger Lakes Volkssport groups met recently at Great Bear Recreation Area to enjoy the scenic trail system.
Members of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail and Finger Lakes Volkssport groups met recently at Great Bear Recreation Area to enjoy the scenic trail system.

The Great Bear Recreation Area near Fulton has been added to the series of self-guided walking tours along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway.

The Great Bear Walk, organized by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Volkssport Association and Friends of Great Bear, is the first of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Walks to be entirely “off-road” as it follows well-marked woodland trails.

Volkssporting in German is “the sport of the people.” The Great Bear Walk joins a series of walks created by the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Volkssport Association along or near the 518-mile Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway, which parallels Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River in New York and Pennsylvania.

The walks are family-oriented and targeted to those who enjoy outdoor physical activity in which people of all ages and fitness levels can participate.

The Great Bear Springs area is comprised of over 400 acres in the City of Fulton and Town of Volney.

The name is based on a Native American legend in which a young brave was attacked by a large bear near the springs. The property also contains the historic Oswego Canal guard lock number 2 and towpath that were a part of the original Oswego River Canal.

After completing the walk, participants have the option of purchasing a collectible pin depicting the bear for which the area is named.

“The area has more than eight miles of natural trails over rolling terrain, and is ideal for walking, cycling, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing,” said Richard Drosse, coordinator of the Friends of Great Bear. “The Great Bear Walk was developed with the option of either a 3.1 mile or 6.2 mile route, and is sanctioned by the American Volkssport Association.”

The walk is open to all, and there is no charge except for Volkssporters wishing to earn credit or for those interested in purchasing the pin.

In May, a group of 18 walkers from the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Volkssport Association and the Finger Lakes Volkssport Club met in Fulton to christen the Great Bear Walk.

“The Great Bear Walk makes an excellent addition to the series of Great Lakes Seaway Trail Walks, and we’re confident it will serve as an important means to attract visitors to the region,” Great Lakes Seaway Trail Volkssport Association President Daryl Giles said.

To get started, go to the Riverside Inn located at 930 S. First St. in Fulton and ask for the Great Bear Walk box at the front desk. Walkers can then sign in and pick up the walk directions.

Oswego County also hosts a sanctioned Volkssport walk near Fort Ontario.

The walk is head-quartered at the Quality Inn and Suites, 70 E. First St., Oswego, and commemorates the 1814 British Naval attack on Fort Ontario. The walk can be done in 5 and 10-kilometer routes.

Those seeking more information on the Great Bear and Oswego 1812 walks, and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Volkssport Association may visit www.seawaytrail.com/volkssport. 

Pictured is Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppy raiser Cindy Swift with a labrador stopping for a drink and a rinse in the river at the Great Bear Recreation Area. Swift has raised 20 puppies in the program. Currently, 17 dogs are being raised for Guiding Eyes in the Syracuse region, including homes in Camillus, Baldwinsville, Mexico and Fulton.

Guide dogs receive training at Great Bear

Guide dogs
Pictured is Guiding Eyes for the Blind puppy raiser Cindy Swift with a labrador stopping for a drink and a rinse in the river at the Great Bear Recreation Area. Swift has raised 20 puppies in the program. Currently, 17 dogs are being raised for Guiding Eyes in the Syracuse region, including homes in Camillus, Baldwinsville, Mexico and Fulton.

by Nicole Reitz

The Great Bear Recreation Area, located between Fulton and Phoenix on Route 57, was the site for a recent meeting of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which is part of an international federation of guiding dog schools that focuses on relationship-centered training.

Representative and trainer Joy Hawksby met volunteers Mary Oonk and Cindy Swift last week at Great Bear for a pack walk.

A pack walks allow dogs to be with other dogs as well as an opportunity to learn from each other. Hawksby believes strongly in letting dogs be dogs and giving puppies time and space to figure things out on their own.

“Great Bear is fabulous,” she said. “We can do recalls, run into horses and meet other dogs in all shapes and sizes, which the puppies are going to run across in their lives as a guide.”

“It’s so much work, its a good thing their cute,” quipped Swift. Swift, a resident of Mexico, has raised 20 puppies in the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program. Swift and her husband got involved with the program in 1996 and are currently raising “Taft” and “Roxana,” a four-month-old German Shepherd.

Before raisers are even given a puppy, volunteers, called puppy starters or early socializers, handle the puppies, introduce them to different noises and sounds, and keep up with their three feedings daily.

The puppies are given a test, which is a marker as to whether the pup should be placed with a raiser.

Puppy raisers, like Swift and Oonk, are given a labrador or German shepherd from the Guiding Eyes breeding program and are expected to teach the dogs obedience, house manners and appropriate behavior in the household.

Raisers also socialize their puppies with people and expose them to new experiences, the post office or their kids soccer game.

Puppies stay with their trainers for 16 to 18 months. During this duration, the raisers will sometimes switch puppies for a week or so with another volunteer, so that the dog has a chance to work with another raiser. The idea is to get a dog comfortable with a lot of different people.

After 18 months, the puppies are released from the home for six months or more of formal training. The puppies are taught to be a guide dog through positive reinforcement, praise and treats.

One of the first things a guide dog is taught is how to target a curb, learning from practice that the safest and shortest distance between one curb and another is a straight line. The dogs also learn to look for overheads and work around traffic.

A dog is placed with a visually impaired person around the age of two. Dogs are matched with graduates based on the person’s pace and lifestyle, among other factors.

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