Chautauqua Rails To Trails Topic Of Westfield-Mayville Rotary Program

Jim Fincher, Chautauqua Rails to Trails president, shows a trail guide to Mary Swanson, Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville president-elect. During his presentation to the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club on April 3 at The Parkview in Westfield, Fincher outlined the advantages of this recreational use trail system and some of the challenges the CR2T faces with maintaining the 28 miles of its trails. Submitted photo

Jim Fincher was the guest presenter of a program about the Chautauqua Rails to Trails (CR2T) recreational use trail system during the Apr. 3 meeting of the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville. Club President-Elect Mary Swanson, who was the sponsoring Rotarian of this program, introduced Fincher. During his slide presentation, Fincher described the picturesque trails that wind through the county and outlined the various advantages of the trail system. He spoke about some of the challenges that CR2T faces, and also discussed some of CR2T’s future goals.

CR2T lists its mission statement as “To acquire, develop and maintain multi-purpose recreational trails on nor near abandoned railroad corridors for public use.” The vision of this 501(c)(3) organization is “to develop and connect a network of safe and accessible trails for all Chautauqua County families and visitors to the area.” CR2T notes its core values as “connecting with nature, promoting healthy lifestyles, conservation and preservation in a family-friendly environment.” This organization, which is affiliated with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, is one of four non-profit groups that own and manage this trail system that is free to the public.

Fincher, who has been a CR2T member since 1990 and its president for over a year, said that advantages of the trail system include physical activity, education, positive economic impact and history. Fincher stated, “The population of our county has a very high rate of obesity. Our safe, scenic, off-road trail system is great for walking, running, hiking, bicycling and cross-country skiing. Other activities include horseback riding and bird watching.”

He continued, “The trails can be great for environmental learning, since they provide public access through hard and soft wood forests, wetlands, meadows, pastures and vineyards. Each of the different habitats is home to various animals, plants and birds. The trails attract not only local users, but they also draw people from other counties and regions. Our trail system can be an added bonus when people attend special events in our county. We want visitors to stay and play here.”

“Historical preservation is part of what CR2T does,” Fincher said. “We are preserving the 150-year-old, abandoned rural railroad corridors and converting them into safe, recreational trails for non-motorized use. Perhaps these old railroad corridors could be used for some new, not yet invented means of transportation.”

Fincher noted that other than funding, some of the biggest challenges that CR2T faces with maintaining its trails system are “culverts, beavers and ATVs.” He described a culvert off of Woleben Road in Portland that partially collapsed after a major storm in 2015 and said that funds are needed to fix it. One of the issues that CR2T wrestles with is deciding what type of surface materials to use on its trails, such as crushed limestone and asphalt.

One future goal of CR2T is to link its trails with the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail Alliance so that a unified trail system would be created. Another goal is to establish a ring of recreational trails around Chautauqua Lake. A third goal is to have CR2T become part of a regional trail system that includes the states of NY, PA, OH, MD and WVA.

CR2T’s funding sources include donations from organizations and individuals, and also grants. For more information about CR2T, including a map and description of its trails, and also how to offer a tax-deductible contribution, visit its web site of; email, or send mail to Chautauqua Rails to Trails, PO Box 151, Mayville, NY 14757-0151. General information about the trail system may be obtained from the Chautauqua County Visitor’s Center by calling 357-4569 (9 to 5, Mon.-Fri.) or 800-242-4569 (24 hours, 7 days).