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West Overland Trail Lands $25,000 Grant For Upgrades

Pictured is a leanto on the West Overland Trail in Chautauqua County. The trail has been awarded a grant to make improvements and reroute part of the trail Between Route 474 and Stebbins Road near Sherman. Submitted photo

Improvements are coming for Chautauqua County’s Overland trails.

The Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association has announced that it has secured a $25,000 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds administered by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to help fund Phase I of the “Chautauqua County Overland Trails Revitalization Project.” Phase I includes trail construction, trail improvements, and reroutes between Route 474 and Stebbins Road on the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail.

WNYMBA President Jacob Bodway noted this section of the trail is popular with hikers, mountain bikers, trail runners, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers.

To secure this grant, Bodway collaborated with statewide stakeholders and county officials to plan and organize the best way to approach this project. Ultimately, the entire project will take six years to complete, and, according to Bodway, will address sections of both Overland Trails according to need and priority.

“We want to target the high-traffic areas first, and Phase I accomplishes that by addressing sustainability issues north of Route 474,” he said.

According to the Hike Chautauqua website, the Overland Trails offer “different experiences and activities on the trails. Head over to the Westside and explore 24 miles of diverse reforestation areas or go east to journey along 19 miles of heavily wooded forests and soothing prairies. The choice for adventure is yours.”

The trail improvements and construction will be completed by the experienced mechanized trail-builders from Trail Construction Associates (TCA) from Chautauqua County. The team from TCA are familiar with the Overland Trails and are excited apply their green design trail-building techniques to improve the sustainability of the Overland Trails.

Bodway feels this project is long overdue and will update the trail with sustainable trail design and trail features.

“We will be rerouting chronic wet areas and improving sections of trail that have poor drainage and erosion issues. We plan to ‘build-up’ the trail in low areas, add bench-cut trail for better drainage, and reroute the trail to areas that highlight the natural beauty of the terrain. This is an exciting project that will enhance the overall quality of life in Chautauqua County. We can’t wait to get started,” he said.

Earlier this year, Bodway presented to the county’s Parks Commission a six-phase plan that, if approved, would improve both the East and West Overland Trails, make trails better for bicyclists and make the trails accessible year-round. Total cost would run between $75,000 and $100,000.

It is estimated about 5,000 people use the trails. The county recently approved grant funding to install a mobile trail counter to get a better number of trail users.

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds were established at the Community Foundation to provide support to four areas that were important to Mr. Wilson: caregivers, community assets, design and access, and youth sports. Endowment funds, like these created to honor Mr. Wilson, are designed to grow over time and provide funding for charitable causes according to a client’s wishes.

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