Chautauqua County Parks Commission members are looking to improve area multi-use trails.
The Chautauqua County Parks Commission met last week at the Chautauqua County Airport in Jamestown for its monthly meeting.
During the meeting, the commission discussed the possibilities for creating a loop trail, where visitors can utilize a multiple-use trail and return to their vehicles where they began.
Thom Wright, president of the North Allegheny Mountain Bike Association, left, and Keith Carrow, state DEC senior forester, second left, explain possible loop trail locations in Chautauqua County to members of the Chautauqua County Parks Commission.
P-J photo by Daniel Swanson
Keith Carrow, New York state Department of Environmental Conservation senior forester, presented maps to the group detailing the potential locations of such a loop.
Howard Brook, commission chairman, felt strongly about a west side loop for the Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail on Route 474. According to Brook, this trail receives the largest influx of visitors based on sign in sheets.
"It would be 15 minutes from Jamestown, there is a town there - it's a nice location," Brook said. "There is already a nice parking lot there."
"On state lands, it would be nice to have loops," Carrow said. "I'll set up an east and west side loop on the map and we'll see where we can go from there."
"Once it's on paper we'll still need to go out and survey," Brook said, adding that the specifics will need to be worked out.
Carrow and Brook agreed that future discussions were necessary to decide on the best course of action for the loop trail.
Tom Erlandson, a former county legislator, asked if the bike trails shown on one of Carrow's maps were completed.
"We have 12 miles of single-track completed," said Thom Wright, president of the North Allegheny Mountain Bike Association.
"The bike clubs put the trails in, but they are shared use - people use them to snowshoe, birdwatch and walk," Wright said, adding that each trail was completed without state or county funding. "When the rodeo comes into town, they get more use from horseback riders."
According to Wright, the sport of mountain biking is growing in Chautauqua County and the key to bringing in visitors for the sport is creating high-quality trails.
"I have seen a steady increase over the last few years," Wright said. "The trails not only serve as low-maintenance athletic and recreational facilities for residents, but when done well, tend to pull in regional visitors. The key component (to attracting visitors) is having enough quality trails to allow riders to ride for two days, or 25-30 miles."
At the Parks Commission meeting, Wright said that he is seeing individuals visit the area from other counties to take part in the sport.
"For our Thursday night rides, we're regularly bringing in people from Buffalo, Erie and Warren," Wright said.
In November, state DEC announced the finalization of a Unit Management Plan to improve roughly 17,100 acres of forest land in the towns of Chautauqua, Sherman, Clymer, Harmony, North Harmony, Busti, Stockton, Charlotte, Cherry Creek, Gerry and Ellington.
Included in the plan is the Boutwell Hill State Forest, North Harmony State Forest, Mount Pleasant State Forest, Panama State Forest, Chautauqua Gorge State Forest, Stockton State Forest, Brokenstraw State Forest, Harris Hill State Forest, Hatch Creek State Forest, Whalen Memorial State Forest, Hill Higher State Forest and Wellman State Forest.
The plan proposes numerous maintenance projects, including improvements to forest access and developing approximately 22 miles of mountain bike trails and 21 miles of horse trails.
The state's plan also includes regenerating and thinning nearly 400 acres of forest over the next 10 years.
According to David Paradowski, state DEC regional forester, regeneration harvests are important for promoting the growth of seedlings and keeping biodiversity in the forests.
Among the community members benefiting from the improvements, the Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association is excited about the plan.
Recently, the group has been developing a trail system called Harris Hill Extension.
"The local DEC forester has been extremely supportive and helpful," Wright said. "The DEC doesn't have funds to build the trail, but they are likely to help develop the infrastructure, parking areas, kiosks. There is a chance that the more successful we are in drawing people to recreate on the land, the more support and funding that might come from Albany."
Wright offered the Allegrippis Trail System in Huntingdon County, Pa, which brings an average of 25,000 visitors to the county during peak times, as an example of how a proper trail system can be influential in stimulating economic growth for an area.
"Trails can really pull a community together," Wright said. "Benefits include low-cost recreational opportunities, rediscovering the simpler types of recreation, tying youth to our land and communities and enhancing year-round recreation opportunities."
According to Wright, these visitors will need to purchase gas for their vehicles, eat at local restaurants and possibly stay overnight.
Megan Gollowitzer, from the state DEC Office of Communications, spoke about the importance of trail systems.
"Forest-based tourism will improve local economies through the continuous improvement of multiple-use trails," she said. "Timber and firewood sales will also provide revenue to New York state and economic stimulus for local communities."
"If people are looking to get involved with mountain biking, stop into a local bike shop - Hollyloft, Jamestown Cycle Shop, Allegheny Cyclery in Warren. Some shops have weekly rides during the season, and all of them should be able to point a person toward what they need and where to go," Wright said. "The clubs are a great place to start since there is a bit of a learning curve - most everyone can ride a bike, but there are tips and tricks that will make riding on trails more enjoyable. Trails are less intimidating on group rides and if there is a mechanical issue, it's nice to have a few others around to help out."
On Sept. 20, a mountain bike race is planned for Harris Hill Extension. According to Wright, more than 60 racers are expected to attend.