Zaepfel Nature Center
The last major event before human habitation for this area was around 8,000-10,000 years ago. At that time this area was hundreds of feet under the ice. It was the last ice age...for now. As the glaciers melted (retreated) the resulting water helped to carve out the many valleys that we live in today. Zaepfel is in one such valley that Coldspring Creek helped to carve out as its glacier melted.
At some point after that humans started inhabiting the area. The Mound Builders are the first recorded inhabitants. A number of their mounds were recorded in "Ancient Man in America: Including Works in Western New York, and Portions of Other States, Together with Structures in Central America" by Frederick Larkin. One mound was recorded nearby while there was much evidence discovered of a possible city within the former Village of Randolph.
Some time after the Mound Builders, came the Seneca Nation of Indians. It is unknown as to if there are actual Seneca sites located within Zaepfel (no traces have been found to date) but anywhere along Coldspring Creek coming from the Allegany River is a potential location for possible habitation.
The first modern settling of Napoli occurred around 1818. From that point on roads were built and fields were cleared to make way for farms and commerce.
The major history of this location occurred back in 1972 when 17 separate parcels were purchased to form one 1,200 acre lot. Shortly afterwards construction began on what was to become a 360 acre lake, with 1,800 subdivision lots, ski-slope, clubhouse, restaurant, five islands, beaches, parks, playgrounds, and more. Here is the last subdivision map on record. Pertaining to the project a 1972 Randolph Register article read:
Quickly there were TV and Newspaper ads and hundreds of people started purchasing these 1,800 lots that range, in 2017 dollars, from $7,000-$20,000 a piece. In 1974 Enchanted Lakes was still alive and a local article in the Randolph Register read:
Close to 400 lots were purchased in total. Sadly these owners quickly found out that their waterfront dream was going to be a nightmare.
The developers ran away from the development and were sued in various ways. This author could not find a record of any property owner receiving compensation from those suits.
If you were to ask owners of these lots or Napoli residents that were around at that time, or frankly anyone who had dealings with Enchanted Lakes, you will get a variety of reasons as to why this development went defunct. Some of those are:
Relying on the sale of the lots to further the development
The NYS DEC forcing the developers to move their fire pit used for the burning of the trees
The 1972 hurricane Agnes forcing the moving of the dam
The hitting of a gravel vein that would not allow for the lake to fill
The animosity of local residents once a sewer pit was revealed along Route 242
High interest rate
High gas prices
Most likely it was a culmination of all or some of these that led to Enchanted Lakes demise. Some probably held more weight than others.
In 1979, because of non-payment of back taxes, Cattaraugus County became the owner and was put on the hotseat. The County held meetings on this topic. Tried obtaining funding for a dam that would supply energy for an Industrial Park while creating a community lake. Then marketed the property in the Wall Street Journal and other publications. Finally they were forced to sell the property at auction in 1981. Frank J. McGuire and Associates purchased the property for the minimum bid of $250,000 (about $670,000 in 2017 dollars) which was a lose in total tax dollars for the County. The companies plan was to finish the lake. That plan fell through once again. It is unknown how much work this developer put in if any but the property ended up staying in the County's hands.
It stayed this way for five years as the discussion of what to do with it raged on. Task Forces were set up, planning boards met, townhall meetings occurred, but nothing concrete came out of these to move the property forward.
In 1984 the County was once again forced to sell the property at auction due to the yearly loss of taxes it was costing them. This time a development firm of Zaepfel(sound familiar?)-Kroag stepped in and purchased it for $106,000 plus taxes (about $249,000 in 2017 dollars). A Randolph Register article from October 1974 read:
Once again it remained in the hands of a developer for many years as they tried various avenues to get the project up and running. Finally Mr. Kroag deeded his interest over to Mr. Zaepfel with the suggestion that he gift the project to a charitable organization. In January of 2000 (after a request from the Town of Napoli) in stepped the CLDC and the Zaepfel Nature Sanctuary and Research Center was born.
1976 The Randolph Register
1975 The Randolph Register
The Randolph Register, November 22, 2005