MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County Greenway Plan made its official public debut on Thursday.
The unveiling included a number of representative-manned information booths set up in the Mayville Park Pavilion, food and music.
According to Mark Geise, county Planning and Economic Development deputy director, the event was successful in growing awareness about the beneficial natural assets in Chautauqua County that need to be preserved and promoted.
The goal, said Geise, is to create a Mecca or establish Chautauqua County as a destination place for people who want to enjoy the outdoors. However, one of the big hurdles that the plan faces is funding. Therefore volunteers are highly appreciated, according to Geise.
"There are all kinds of volunteers out there ... People who love to hike, birds, mountain biking, snowmobiling or whatever outdoor activity it is ... Who are willing to jump on this because of passion and love," said Geise.
Lisa Schmidtfrerick-Miller, chairperson of the Greenway Steering Committee, also had much to say about the good that the project will do for the county, and how people can get involved.
"This plan is important because we have great natural recreational assets but we haven't always promoted them the way we should," said Schmidtfrerick-Miller. "We're starting to bring together people to help us maintain our trails. Our website will be able to say here is a project, we're meeting here and hopefully get a group of people there to have a great time, get some exercise and improve our trails."
Volunteer opportunities are available for a wide range of recreationalists: hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, equestrian, hunters, anglers, wildlife and bird watchers, conservationists, preservationists, farmers, canoe and kayakers, snowmobilers and much more. Visit friendsofchautauquagreenways.org to find ways to make an impact.
Another issue that the plan faced was organizing all the stakeholders under one banner. The stakeholders in the plan include the county Planning and Economic Development Department, county parks commission, county Industrial Development Agency and county Greenway Plan Steering Committee. Other groups such as the Audubon Center, Watershed Conservatory, NYS DEC, Rails to Trails, Conewango Creek and more were also at the event promoting the plan.
"There were all these stakeholders involved in other groups so we asked them to come set up too," Geise said. "We all need to work towards the same vision and work off the same blueprint. Because we're all using the same infrastructure, but we all have our own independent groups right now. So, why not work together because there is power in numbers and a voice. It's absolutely crucial in grant writing that you have stakeholders that are invested."
The organization of the stakeholders has resulted in phases of the plans coming to fruition. Two phases of the project equestrian trails in towns of Charlotte and Cherry Creek are already under way, according to Geise.
"It's a $300,000 dollar project that a $150,000 grant came from ARC and the other $150,000 came from in-kind contribution and cash from the county," he said. "It is to do about 17 miles of trails through the Boutwell State Forest lands and to Cockaigne. The next phase will connect Cockaigne to Cherry Creek. The final third phase it to connect Cherry Creek back to Boutwell State Forest. From there we will extend north into the Canadaway Creek Wildlife Management area, south to Hatch Creek and over into Arkwright, then east to Cattaraugus County."
Schmidtfrerick-Miller added, "I am happy (with the plan) and what's exciting to me is that there are things in action. We're already making progress in a number of different areas."
The Greenway Plan's mission states: "Chautauqua County's rich system of four-season greenways positively impacts the economies of our communities. The recommendations proposed in the Greenway Plan create a new enthusiasm for active living and healthy lifestyles; promote outdoor activities; improves our quality of life within Chautauqua County; act as a catalyst for economic development related to outdoor living; and establish Chautauqua County as a destination center for outdoor adventure and lifelong learning opportunities."
The mission was formed during the planning process as a result of surveys conducted to determine the opinions of residents and visitors. The results of the survey indicated that the top two qualities in which residents decide to live in Chautauqua County are as follows: 57 percent for the natural environment and 51 percent for the open space and rural character.
The survey also resulted in steps to ensure that the natural assets that the residents expressed concern for were preserved and promoted. The steps include: formalizing and maintaining rural outdoor lifestyles; fulfilling the desire to be a four-season destination for active outdoor living; and to capitalize on the positive economic impact that can be realized through providing goods and services that visitors of the county desire.
To achieve the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan vision seven goals were established: active living and alternative transportation; conservation of natural resources; connectivity and trail development; management, operations and maintenance; the world's learning center; leadership; and marketing and tourism. Full explanations of these goals as well as a wealth of other information can be found at planningchautauqua.com/_pdfs/EconDev/Greenways/Greenway%20Plan%20Executive%20Summary.pdf.