By David Prenatt
Many questions were asked and many answers were given, but a Barcelona to Chautauqua recreational trail is still a long way off.
Photo by David Prenatt
John Buerkle, of the planning company Pashek Associates, answers a question from a resident attending Wednesday’s (Sept. 25) public meeting.
Mark Geise, director of the Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development; and representatives of Pashek Associates, a planning organization, presented information the possibility of the recreational trail to nearly 100 people in Mayville Wednesday (Sept. 25) evening.
The trail was one recommendation of the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan, which was created as a response to the findings of the Chautauqua 20/20 Comprehensive Plan adopted by the county legislature in April, 2011.
"Nine-tenths of the people in the survey said they wanted to preserve and promote the county's natural resources," Geise said. "I would like to see this county become a mecca for people looking for a recreational destination."
The trail would begin in Barcelona Harbor and run all the way to Chautauqua Institute using the old Portage trail and abandoned railroad lines.
The actual plan for the trail breaks the project up into eight parts, according to priority. The first segment to be constructed would the a stretch along Route 394 from Lakeside Park in Mayville to Chautauqua Institution. This section would include amenities, such as tables, waste receptacles and benches.
Geise said the county plans to apply for two grants from the New York State Department of Transportation to help fund this segment. One grant for $764,000 would serve to develop the area around Lakeside Park. The second grant for $2.6 million would develop a path along Route 394 from Lakeside Park to the Institution, he said. "The money is slated for hiking and recreation activity. If we don't get it for this, someone else will for their project," he said.
John Buerkle of Pashek Associates, emphasized that the project will take a long time to develop. Even those elements of the plan that are categorized as short-term will not happen quickly. "Don't think if it's a short term goal, it's going to happen tomorrow," he said. "On short term goals, we are doing really well if we could go through it in the next five years."
Buerkle told the gathering that the trail would benefit local residents to improve their quality of life, increase health and fitness, and provide recreation as well as transportation alternatives.
As far as visitors, the trail would serve to promote eco-tourism, bring dollars to "main street" and increase development, he said. "Studies show that a person using a trail is generating between $0 and $50 per visit to the local economy."
The presentation focused on concerns that were raised at a similar meeting in Westfield in June, such as liability to property owners; who will manage and operate the trail; effects on property values; use of the trail during hunting season; and enforcement of rules.
Buerke said that property owners along the trail would be protected from any liability should someone be hurt while traversing their land. Also, he said, studies indicated that having an improved trail on one's land actually increases property value.
The Greenway Plan recommends a "two-prong" approach to managing the trail, Buerkle said. It is hoped that municipalities along the trail would form an intergovernmental group to determine rules and enforcement. A non-profit organization could also be formed to bring in volunteers for upkeep, he said
During hunting season, users of the trail would be encouraged to wear orange and asked to minimize possible contact with hunters.
Some residents expressed concern that snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles would create constant noise. Buerkle replied that those managing the trail would try to partner with snowmobile clubs in the area to respect landowners' rights.