Tragic Loss: State Parks Employee Who Loved Nature and Hard Work

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In a heartfelt gathering, family and friends paid their respects during a Wednesday evening visitation for Aaron Peters, a 32-year-old Niagara County man who tragically lost his life while carrying out tree cleanup duties as a state employee in a local park. The state flags, standing at half-mast, served as a poignant tribute to a man remembered not only for his talent as a musician but also for his love of the great outdoors.

Aaron Peters, a dedicated member of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, held a specialized role as a “sawyer” within a crew tasked with using chainsaws to address damaged trees and clear tree debris from state parks. His girlfriend, Katie Schank, shared insights into Peters’ passion for nature, explaining, “He really enjoyed being out in nature.” This intrinsic love for the outdoors guided him seamlessly into a role that combined his skills with his love for the environment.

The job, as depicted in New York State Department of Environmental Conservation videos, involves demanding and perilous work. Despite the challenges, crews like Peters’ undergo specialized training, including the intricacies of the Game of Logging. Peters, equipped with additional skills, would often tackle tasks in precarious locations, such as cliffs near public access scenic overlooks, exemplified by his work at Devil’s Hole State Park near Niagara Falls. Schank elaborated on his additional capabilities, mentioning his proficiency in rope access, enabling him to rappel down slopes and clear away overgrowth.

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Tragedy struck last Wednesday when Peters sustained fatal injuries during tree removal operations at Golden Hills State Park along the shores of Lake Ontario in Niagara County. Schank acknowledged Peters’ awareness of the risks associated with his job but emphasized his pride in contributing to the upkeep of public parks. She remarked, “You always have to worry when you do jobs like that. You always have to be cautious because you never know. But he loved it… that is the thrill of it.”

Beyond his professional commitments, Peters found joy in outdoor activities, often hiking and fishing with Schank and his young daughter, Adeline, particularly in Allegany and Letchworth state parks. Additionally, he showcased his musical talents as a singer and guitarist in local bands. A dedicated Green Bay Packers fan, he also rooted for the Bills, displaying a genuine passion for sports.

Described as a normally quiet individual, Peters revealed his sweet and kind nature to those who knew him well. His untimely passing resonated not only with his immediate circle but also drew attention from the broader community. While the state parks department declined to comment due to unavailability, Governor Kathy Hochul acknowledged Peters’ sacrifice, highlighting the inherent risks faced by state employees in their commitment to enhancing safety for the public and their colleagues.

Aaron Peters’ story is not just one of loss but a testament to the dedication of individuals who put themselves in harm’s way to preserve and improve the natural spaces that enrich our lives. His legacy, marked by a love for the outdoors and a commitment to public service, leaves an indelible mark on the hearts of those who knew him and the communities he serve

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