Proposed Haunted Forest attraction defended by owner

·4 min read

Jul. 6—WILSON — The Haunted Forest, a fall and Halloween agriculture tourism event projected to open in September, has been criticized by neighboring families and property owners regarding noise, traffic and even lasting psychological harm to their children by the weekend operation.

The outcry was so much that Supervisor Doyle Phillips said the Wilson Town Board will be setting a public hearing to enact a law to "un-mute" the town's authority to place limits on agri-tourism that would affect the operation in the fall.

Corey Quinn, co-owner of the property at 2860 Beebe Road, said he is an entrepreneur who owns two insurance offices, one in the Town of Kenmore and one in the Town of Wilson, where he and his brother also own the horse boarding farm in question.

While Quinn said that he believes the Department of Agriculture and Markets will defend his right to do with his farm as he wishes, he wants to dispel the rumors about the Haunted Forest — stating it's not an amusement park, that a pre-existing parking lot exists on the land, and he's expecting less than 100 people each weekend.

"I think there's a lot of misconceptions of what we're doing. People think we're going to bring an amusement park, we're not," Quinn said. "We're a farm and we're doing some other agriculture tourism to jumpstart our farm."

Quinn said that he wants the project to put his farm on the mind of every visitor to the Haunted Forest, and come Christmas 2022, former Halloween hayriders will come back for pumpkins, corn, corn stalks and Christmas trees.

He also said that it only makes sense for farmers to supplement their income with events like this, and have been doing so for years, even before COVID-19 laid low profits last year.

Quinn pointed to the barn that will host the "Haunted House" and said it connected to the Gogan story, now online. He noted that the website was scarier than what visitors would encounter there or on the "Haunted Hayride" which will be rolling through the back of the property, far from anyone's home.

What will be close for the neighbors is a farmer's market where other farms and restaurants will set up tents on one side of a horse stable. Quinn also wanted to say that a part of the ticket proceeds each weekend will go to a charity, the first of which will be Western New York Heroes (WNY Heroes) a veteran's organization, and at least one weekend will split the proceeds to benefit Roswell Park. Quinn said he's willing to listen to other charities in the area for the remaining weekends.

Also, a parking lot which has been overgrown with grass will be in use. Quinn said many newcomers to the rural neighborhood are unaware that it is there as it hasn't been in use for 10 years when it was used to host commercial vehicles while the road was being built.

Quinn was eager to show that he'd thought of all the possible affects his event would have on the community, including low decibel speakers on the hayride vehicle itself, as well as crowd control, fences, staff around the barriers of the farm. He said it would surprise him if more than 60 people a day would come to the event, but he was prepared for more.

"I guess I should've talked to the neighbors first," he said, explaining he hopes the community will give it a chance. "But I wanted to make sure I could do it first. That's why I went to the town. ... I honestly didn't think anyone would mind."

As reported last month, at a March 22 Town of Wilson Zoning Board of Appeals meeting, a group opposed to the plan had accumulated 65 signatures from residents of Beebe Road, Shadigee Road, Chestnut Road, Nelson Road, Lake Road, Wilson-Burt Road, Ide Road and Wilson-Cambria Road.

Of their concerns, traffic, noise and proximity to their children were the major issues brought up.

"There's multiple families directly neighboring the property and we just think it's a rather poor location for such a potentially large venue," Brandon Darnell said and also noted that because of his and other's opposition, the application was denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

"There's just a lot of concern from the neighbors that are directly affected by this," he said.

Quinn brought his concerns to the town board to find out how he could get his "Haunted Forest" on the board's agenda, which prompted them to pass the resolution that will be examined upon a public hearing, giving them the right to look at the proposal. A date for the hearing hadn't been set as of late June.