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Organizations Team To Bring Boat Traffic To River Basin

Pedestrian traffic has increased in downtown Jamestown since the opening of the National Comedy Center, but what about boat traffic?

Boats traveling to the Chadakoin River basin behind the National Comedy Center and in proximity to the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities may be in the city’s future thanks to a partnership between several organizations.

This spring and summer, the Gebbie Foundation and the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency partnered to fund a bathymetric survey done by Twan Leenders, Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History president, of the water depth from McCrea Point Park to the Chadakoin River basin in downtown Jamestown.

Mark Geise, IDA CEO, said the bathymetric survey showed there were no major impediments below the water keeping boats from traveling from Chautauqua Lake to the Chadakoin River basin down by the pedestrian bridges along the Greater Jamestown Riverwalk.

Greg Edwards, Gebbie Foundation CEO, said Leenders did a monthly analysis of the Chadakoin River water this spring and summer, and came to the conclusion that the water is navigable by the majority of watercraft. He said there are a few height limitations, mainly an old bridge near the Jamestown BPU, but Edwards said 80% of vessels could make it to the basin.

“The channel is open to virtually all watercraft,” he said. “We knew boats, like the Chautauqua Bell, could make it from the lake to McCrea Point. There is 5 to 12 feet of water there, but we needed to find out about the urban area from McCrea Point Park to the basin.”

Geise and Edwards said there are a few other challenges like the flow of water and where some areas the river narrows that will need to be improved before boats can travel to downtown Jamestown.

“There is nothing to keep this from happening if we build the infrastructure to make this happen,” Geise said.

Following the bathymetric survey, the IDA and Gebbie Foundation officials decided to produce a request for proposals to hire a business to develop a strategic business plan to bring the idea of attracting boaters off of Chautauqua Lake to downtown Jamestown. Geise said the business plan would include where docks would be installed, where buoys need to be located and a water barrier to keep boats from being near the Warner Dam.

“The business plan will establish objectives like site conditions, marketing opportunities, physical structures that need to be done away with or added and environmental conditions,” Edwards said. “There will be a menu of projects and they will be prioritized. There will be a number of projects and it will take a number of years to invest strategically with grants.”

Edwards said local officials are hoping to have the strategic business plan completed this spring so they can submit a consolidated funding application to possibly receive state grants through the Regional Economic Development Council program in December 2020. Geise said the estimated cost for the strategic business plan will be between $40,000 to $60,000.

“The strategic business plan will identify projects that need to be done,” Geise said. “What they look like. How much they will cost. It will identify funding sources and then prioritize projects so we do them in the correct order.”

Geise said it will take three to five years to turn the idea into reality.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a long time, but we really didn’t know what the challenges were until we did the (bathymetric) survey,” Geise said. “There are no major impediments, so we are excited about it. It’s about bringing people from the lake to the downtown to spend money in our community. If we can pull people from Chautauqua Lake to take advantage of all the great things to do, not only in Jamestown, but along the river , it’s good for all of us.”

Edwards said increasing activity around the Chadakoin River downtown has been a goal since the creation of the first Urban Design Plan in 2006. He said, even with several projects along the riverfront being completed since 2006, Urban Design Plan 2.0 also called for the continued development of the riverfront downtown.

“The more you can do to increase activity with the river is a good thing,” Edwards said. “We want to build on the proven successes.”

Edwards said the future of the Chadakoin Riverfront continues to be bright, with more projects in the future to go along with already completed developments like the National Comedy Center.

“It was an area (Chadakoin Riverfront) where no wanted to be,” Edward said, referring to the debris and brush that was in the area before the Comedy Center Park and Greater Jamestown Riverwalk extensions were developed. “Now, (the Chadakoin Riverfront) is a focal point.”

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