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Beavers Force County To Shut Down Part Of Trail System

‘Under Water’

The county has closed the West Overland Trail at the Stebbins Road entrance in North Harmony. Photo by Gregory Bacon

Blame those beavers and their dams.

Part of the West Overland Trail from Stebbins Road to Mount Pleasant in the Sherman/Panama area is closed due to beaver dams causing parts of the trail to be underwater.

“The county has placed signs at the trail heads that say ‘trail closed,’ explained Brad Bentley, Chautauqua County Department of Public Works director. “The county continues to make repairs to the various parts of the trails addressing the most serious issues first. The county is currently assessing the beaver dam issue and determining the best course of action to reopen the closed section of trail as soon as possible.”

The issue was first brought up at the August Parks Commission meeting. “The trail is gone. It’s under water,” explained Jacob Bodway, the president of the Western New York Mountain Biking Association. Bodway is currently seeking a grant for the county’s overland trails through the Greater Buffalo Community Foundation. But even if they get the grant, which wouldn’t happen until next year, Bodway said it would take a full year for the trails to be studied and rerouted to avoid wet areas like the one at Stebbins Road. That means the earliest the trails would be rerouted would be 2022.

Bentley said there isn’t a lot of options right now. “There’s not a lot of money, there’s not a lot of resources,” he said.

County Legislator John Hemmer, R-Westfield, agreed. “Our budget isn’t there to throw a lot of manpower and money at the trails right at this time. We’re cutting just about everywhere we can in the budget. I hate to tell you guys this but as far as the Department of Public Facilities’ budget is concerned, the parks in the lowest priority as determined by the Public Facilities Committee,” he said.

Hemmer said for now, the Parks Commission should focus its efforts on making a plan. “What we have now is time to do some planning and to try and figure out exactly how we want to approach the trails and parks maintenance and repairs in the future so we can be ready when we do have some funding,” he said. “The money to actually go ahead and actually attack some of these problems, it’s not there.”

He also recommended the committee seek volunteers to help improve things. “As far as work on the county land, we can’t take work away from the county employees but as far as picking things up, cleaning things up, that kind of stuff, picking up the trash, we can certainly do that,” he added.

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