Chautauqua County is a destination where area residents and visitors can enjoy active outdoor living during all four seasons.
Recreationalists in Chautauqua County enjoy outdoor opportunities such as: hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, equestrian, hunting, angling, wildlife and bird watching, conservation, preservation, farming, canoeing and kayaking, snowmobiling and others.
According to Eileen Campbell, Chautauqua County Hiking Club coordinator, the club is composed of volunteers who host hikes throughout the region and members who participate,
A bridge on Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail is shown during a Chautauqua County Hiking Club outing.
"We do hikes, bikes, canoe or kayak paddling - whatever the hike leader wants to do," said Campbell. "They range in difficulty from short, easy walks to longer more strenuous hikes based on the leader's choice."
Part of the beauty of the program, said Campbell, is that anybody of any age who is interested, including families, can join for free. A mailing list via firstname.lastname@example.org is sent out whenever an event is held.
"There's a lot to offer here," said Campbell. "Between the lakes, trail systems and the planned improvements, there is plenty of opportunity to get out and do something."
An example of the events that the club hosts includes a recent outing to Cassadaga Lake, in which participants brought kayaks to paddle on the lake. The group also often does the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail and the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail because they are popular choices among hosts and members. Quite often members also head out to Allegany State Park and Presque Isle State Park. And, the group sometimes heads further out to places such as the Niagara Gorge.
"We try to explore new places, and if anybody has ideas of somewhere new that we haven't been we're willing to try it," said Campbell. "We also work in conjunction with Chautauqua Rails to Trails, the Watershed Conservancy, the Erie Outing Club and the Olean Hiking Club to do joint hikes. I've even had people who are on vacation join us for a hike."
For more information email email@example.com or search for "Chautauqua County Hiking Club" on Facebook.
For those looking for an outdoor recreational activity that is also educational, the Jamestown Audubon Center and Sanctuary, a wildlife preservation society, is located in Chautauqua County. The center is open year round, with seasonal hours of operation occurring from November to February. The 600-acre sanctuary and its 5 miles of trails are open to the public.
The center is located at 1600 Riverside Road in Jamestown. For more information call 569-2345 or visit jamestownaudubon.org.
Information on popular outdoor opportunities can also be found at www.tourchautauqua.com, where listings of trails, parks and other nature attractions are located.
PRESERVE AND PROMOTE
In August of 2012 the Chautauqua County Greenway Plan made its public debut. The plan details the means to grow awareness about the beneficial natural assets in Chautauqua County that need to be preserved and promoted.
According to Mark Geise, deputy director of planning and economic development, the plan was partly inspired by a study done by Michigan State University called "Drivers of Economic Performance In Michigan," which talks about natural features, green infrastructure and sociocultural amenities being drivers of economic prosperity in a new economy that has transitioned from industrial to being based on services.
"It's about how these assets are important to people in terms of where they locate," said Geise. "A lot of people have rediscovered the outdoors, places that they want to go to be outside to take in the wonders of nature. When you think about it in those terms - we really have a lot here."
One aspect of the plan surveyed focus groups about active living in Chautauqua County, and one of the things Geise found out, he said, is that nine out of 10 people from the community recognize that there are natural assets in the county that should be preserved and promoted.
"The four-season Greenway Plan would inventory what we currently have and figure out how to expand upon it to tie in other areas so that we have a whole network of trail systems that connect our towns and villages to our natural assets," said Geise. "At the end of the day, what we really want is that Chautauqua County becomes recognized regionally as a mecca for outdoor recreation and active living."
The plan currently has a stake in improving and maintaining hiking trails, mountain biking trails, scenic vistas, parks, horse trails and waterway trails. Specifically, the plan has had an impact on the Earl Cardot Eastside Overland Trail, the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail, the Harris Hill Ext., Rails to Trails, John Luensman Overview Park, Tom Erlandson Overview Park and the Abe Mattison Millrace Park, Chautauqua Watershed Conservatory and Marden Cobb Waterway. Several new trails are in the proposal stages, including an equestrian trail in Cherry Creek, and a map is available at www.planningchautauqua.com.
For more information or to get involved visit friendsofchautauquagreenways.org.