Jon Schull, Rochester Institute of Technology associate professor of innovation and invention, said he and Allen Kerkeslager met a couple months ago in Philadelphia, where Kerkeslager is a professor at St. Joseph’s University.
“We talked about the synergy between his (Kerkeslager’s) work in the Genesee Wilds Association and my work which I call the ‘Rochester Greenway,’ ” Schull said. “We realized the two sections we had been focusing on were the two end points of this project.”
Schull, one of the founders of the Rochester Cycling Alliance, is excited about the recreation possibilities.
Kerkeslager described different reasons he wants to get involved. He grew up in rural New York, near the proposed trail project, and continues to go home to see family there, driving through Williamsport on the way.
The trail project also is a chance for Kerkeslager, a religions of the ancient world professor, to delve into something he admits isn’t as obscure.
‘A breather … for humanity’
“Much of this (trail project) is a breather to do stuff for humanity,” he said.
It comes with a price.
Kerkeslager said the cost for the 230-mile connection could be $100 million, but he offered an explanation.
To offer it completely with trails, he expects a $50 million expense.
There would be another cost of $50 million for the water conservation measures he recommends.
It’ll take time, too, as Kerkeslager said, “Twenty years, I think that’s a fair estimate to be completely off-road.”
Kerkeslager, who rides a bicycle 10 miles round trip on his daily work commute, said he’s a proponent of the proposed cycling recreation.
But, he’s also an advocate for environmental improvements possible through the trail plan.
The project spans the Susquehanna, Genesee and the headwaters of the Allegheny River, all watersheds Kerkeslager intends to protect.
Kerkeslager believes building a riparian buffer along the trail is a cost-saving conservation alternative to building expensive rock wall dams.
Greenway planning preserves forests and conserves nature, according to Rick Biery, regional planning program manager for Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission.
Biery embraces plan development and the possible trail if it’s conducted responsibly.
“From a concept standpoint, these things are great,” Biery said. “It brings an opportunity to tap into a resource hikers and bikers may not get to go through unless we look at the possibilities.”
Through connectivity, the recreational system experience improves, according to Kerkeslager.
He said it will connect the nationally renowned Pine Creek Gorge bicycle trail to the Genesee River’s gorgeous waterfalls.
Jobs will be created, Kerkeslager added, especially in the sectors of tourism, hospitality, recreation and tour guiding.
He intends to bring the plan to the forefront at meetings of the Northcentral Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission in Ridgway.
Facing up to the challenge
Some consider the most challenging interstate link to be completed as a 40-mile proposed trail running northwest from Wellsboro to the New York border.
A connection just west of Wellsboro is in the conceptual stage, according to Biery.
“We’re working with a consultant to develop a greenways open space outdoors recreation plan. It’s an overall concept plan,” he said.
Matt Marusiak, project coordinator for the Northcentral Pennsylvania Greenways and Open Space Plan, said land deals still need to be made there to acquire trail property, much of which lack old railroad beds ideal for making recreation trails.
In areas where land can’t be bought, Kerkeslager said the trail may have to go along Route 6.
Railroad beds ideal
A recreational trail using a road area isn’t uncommon, as Kerkeslager said portions of the Appalachian Trail he’s explored are the same way.
Railroad beds like what are used in the local Pine Creek Trail are ideal, but alternatives can be used if necessary.
Kerkeslager said there’s often a section here and there where planners have to route a trail along roads where landowners want to keep their property or where an area is undevelopable.
Since July, Biery’s been involved in what he described as an outreach process including public meetings, contact with stakeholders, and thousands of resident surveys in the counties of Tioga, Sullivan, Wyoming and Susquehanna.
Biery hopes to reach the next goal by early June, which includes a direct recommendations document he said is drafted for review by the planning partners.
“That’s where projects will come from,” Biery said of further details to be unveiled.
Bicycle recreation is important but so is waterways enjoyment, organizers say.
Like the canoe and kayak launches already offe
red along the Genesee and Pine Creek rail trails, Kerkeslager plans on offering more boat launches where possible.
He hopes his entire New York to Pennsylvania circuit can be as beautiful as the Pine Creek trail residents enjoy here, but he realizes some adjustments may be necessary.
A hurdle in New York is not to have a trail, but to have it off-road.
A 20-mile section from Belfast, N.Y., to Wellsville, N.Y., can be offered as soon as this summer if it’s presented on an existing country road.
“In the long run, we’d like to get these trails off the roads entirely,” Kerkeslager said.
Using a combination of existing roads and trails, he said a route from Williamsport to New York could be offered later this year.
Organizers would merely have to offer maps, a Web site and post some trail sections with markers honoring the trail.
“It could say future home of (the NYPA Greenways),” Kerkeslager said, reminding it’s only a working name.
“To open for usage with provisional usage on roads, we can do that as soon as it gets warm,” he said.
People already bicycle from Rochester to Williamsport, according to Schull.
“They ride on trails and ride on roads when the trail peters out,” he said.
It can be done now, but Lycoming County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jason Fink doesn’t suggest competing with traffic along the Route 14-15 corridors.
‘A safer way’
“This would be a safer way to enjoy it,” said Fink, himself an avid local bicycle rider. “To ride up to Rochester would be a very exciting thing for a bicyclist.”
Because the existing Pine Creek Trail is extensively used, he believes a new trail would be popular around here.
It would be quite an experience to explore a different terrain in the Great Lakes region up north, according to Fink.
The trail is more than just about recreation to Schull, who said, “it becomes a plan for real development and transportation development.”
He said bicycling is especially popular among the five cycling clubs in his city.
Schull said there are great places to ride around the Erie Canal, Genesee Riverway Trail, Lake Ontario and Finger Lakes. He said his region already had wonderful trails but they can be improved.
“There are stretches where there’s roads that we ride that could be more bikeable,” Schull said. “And there’s stretches that could be more scenic or more direct.”
Extending their outreach
Attracting expanded stakeholders interested in conservation is critical to success, according to Kerkeslager.
“With more interest in the trail, we’ll expand the profile,” he said. “Get people using it and once they’re using it, it promotes more stakeholders to build up funding.”
“If there’s enough support out there, the right people should be able to find those funds out there,” Fink said of needed grants.
Separate but similar projects are happening elsewhere, as Schull said a national network of trails is developing.
“There’s an emerging view of greenways all over the country,” he said.
The East Coast Greenway project from Cape Cod to Key West, Fla., is being developed along a proposed 3,000-mile trail, which runs down the eastern seaboard, incorporating the Philadelphia area.
In addition to his planning involvement with the Pennsylvania Wilds, Jerry Walls also is a board member of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, which he said may benefit from the NYPA plan.
From the headwaters of the West Branch in Cambria County to Williamsport to Sunbury to the Chesapeake Bay, Susquehanna Greenway partners including Walls are planning a 500-mile recreational route that he said could tie into Kerkeslager’s plan.
We have identified an RGE gas pipeline that runs from a hill on the West Side of RIT’s campus (just South of the Red Barn) across East River Rd, across the river, across Scottsville Rd, and through cleared woods to the GVGreenway Trail.
This path has just the trajectory we might want in developing the RIT Tweenway, and the trees are already cleared. (The path is not surfaced.)
View tweenway Spur in a larger map
Here are some panoramas
The view from the hill to the West: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2721/4309845639_f1e422dcce_o.jpg
The view from Scottsville Rd East to RIT: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4045/4309844619_70c0ddf04f_o.jpg
The view at the GVGreenway-Pipeline intersection (380 degrees) : http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2798/4338153998_0616943c66_o.jpg:
Let’s call the path that might be made from the pipeline the “Tweenway Spur” (assuming the cross-RIT bike trail is to be called the RIT Tweenway.)
The ideal long-range vision is for a cycle/pedestrian bridge from the hill on the RIT campus to the Tweenway Spur, without their having to touch down on the East River Rd, Scottsville Rd, or the River.
However, even without the Tweenway Bridge, this spur would provide a more intuitive, scenic and safer alternative route to the Ballantyne Bridge (and thence to RIT or Jefferson Road and the Lehigh Valley North Trail).
- with regard to RIT, see this post (an on campus Greenway would connect RIT’s two new extremities Global Village and Park Point)
- with regard to the RochesterGreenway (=Lehigh Valley North Trail here) , this would join it to the GVGreenway.
- with regard to the potential NYPA Greenways (the 230 mile superset to Williamsport), this would be a big advance
- with regard to the Genessee Valley Greenway, our impression is that it peters out just to the north of this point. This would ncrease the Genessee Valley Greenway’s utility and value.
Some googling lead me to believe there is a connecting trail.So this afternoon, I went cross country skiing to look for the connecting trail.At around the right place (A), I did find an embankment going West-East across the trail.There was a stone bridge over the creek on the West side of the trail, but fallen trees (under the snow, at least) no obvious trail to the East.When I circled back and drove back to Scottsville Rd just south of Greyson Rd, I found what might be the West end of that same cross-trail:a break in a wooden fence, a marked telephone pole “RGE 111, 228” and a sign pointing to Clearview Farms apartment. (B)And when I hiked West from the Road, there was a clear view to (what I believe was) the GV Trail.
Mitch Rosen points out that the Genessee Valley Greenway peters out just west of RIT’s Red Barn and suggested that a bike bridge (built by our own Civil Engineering students?) across the River would allow one to bike all the way from Cuba NY to the City without travelling a major road.
Date: Sun, Nov 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM
Subject: Genesee River Wilds Project (Please Forward as Appropriate)
To: BDSHARP@democratandchronicle.com, Jon.Schull@rit.edu
I just noticed some recent news on the Rochester Greenway and I am glad to see the progress that your groups are making on this. You may find it helpful to peruse the newsletter of the Genesee River Wilds Project below and look over the attached documents, especially the project’s “Program Guide.” You may find it especially helpful to read the opening description of the project’s main goals and the references to trail systems in the Program Guide’s “Infrastructure Inventory.” This will make it clear that one of the goals of the Genesee River Wilds Project is to create the links needed to complete a massive recreational trail system reaching all the way from the Susquehanna River at Williamsport, PA, to Lake Ontario in Rochester. As the newsletter below and the contact list in the back of the Program Guide. indicates, many state and regional officials (including some in your area, as mentioned below) are aware of the Genesee River Wilds Project. The Program Guide. (from last April) and the newsletter (from end of last August) are, in fact already outdated because our contact list has grown considerably. For example, the project recently received a $5,000 grant to help pay for planning work being done by an architectural engineer, who is working almost for free with my colleagues and DEC officials in designing nature parks along the Genesee River in Allegany County, NY. Given that these and other features of the Genesee River Wilds Project involve two states and environmental issues that extend to federal interests such as Lake Ontario, you may find it especially helpful to articulate how your work on the Rochester Greenway can be integrated into these larger environmental concerns and the proposed interstate trail system when you submit applications for grants for federal and state funds.
If you are not familiar with the recreational trail system in Pennsylvania’s Pine Creek Gorge, then you may want to follow some of the links on the Genesee River Wilds Project’s website to see the exciting possibilities that will open up when the entire trail system from Rochester to Williamsport is completed. You may also want to pay special attention to the section of the newsletter below that deals with some of the planning on the Pennsylvania side that is underway for completing the remaining sections in PA (see below, “(6) Developments on the Pennsylvania side”). Completion of all 240 miles of the projected trail system is obviously a long-term goal, but so much has already been done on the Genesee Valley Greenway and the Pine Creek Trail that we actually are already far more than halfway there. Pennsylvania is also, as the note below indicates, moving more quickly than New York. So perhaps it will not be that many years before the Rochester Greenway can boast of being part of one of the longest and most scenic recreational trail systems in the country.
Please feel free to forward this note and the attached documents to people in your area. Our project has advanced rapidly by its appeal to stakeholders interested in not only riverside recreation, but also in conservation and the economic benefits of tourism and related business. Thus this may be of interest to business leaders, environmental scientists and biologists at the University of Rochester who may be involved in research projects related to the improvement of the water quality of the Genesee River or Lake Ontario, non-profit conservation groups in your area, and many others–including hikers, bikers, and kayakers. The more people that can be recruited to join in, the faster this will proceed.
d the Pennsylvania side of the Genesee River so that it can be used in both states and in the context of the inter-state discussions at the federal level in Congress. The budget provided in the Program Guide is merely a provisional one and represents an inflation-adjusted estimate for a multi-year program.
ulated rural communities that rank among the lowest in per capita income among all of the counties in NY and PA (Allegany County has long been at or near the very bottom in NY). This imposes limits of personnel, finances from public and private donors, technical resources, and political clout when pursuing funds from federal and state agencies. Thus I would appreciate any recipients of this note who are involved with non-profit organizations and with various federal, state, regional, or municipal agencies to consider how they can help to secure grants, donations, and volunteer support for conservation and recreational development along the upper Genesee River as articulated by the Genesee River Wilds Project. Those with expertise, resources, or access to channels better equipped than what we have available in the small fledgling committees associated with the Genesee River Wilds Project are strongly encouraged to contact my colleagues on the New York side of the project. The internet has made it easy for anyone outside the immediate area to help quite independently, such as by consulting county property tax rolls to compile a list of landowners along the river who, with significant financial incentives, could be recruited for conservation efforts along the river. But my colleagues on the project committees in New York have the advantage of being personally acquainted with local landowners, farmers, county officials, and municipal leaders sympathetic to the project (and despite my present distance, I have some contacts with others with whom they are less familiar). They also know many specific targeted locations to which funds from outside organizations could be allocated. Unfortunately, this advantage does not compensate for their need for help from the specialists and richer resources available in larger agencies, major non-profit organizations, potential partners among the officials of distant urban municipalities downstream, and other groups outside the small rural communities around the upper Genesee River.
meeting correctly noted that this is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something for the Great Lakes, so they and everyone at the meeting repeatedly stated how grateful they were for this new program and the work of the EPA officials in formulating new policies for administering it. Perhaps one of the best features of this new federal initiative is that it rectifies one of the great flaws with the current Great Lakes Legacy Act, which is that it only allows funding to be directed to the targeted “Areas of Concern” along the lakes themselves. This prevented the Great Lakes Legacy Act from addressing problems that are systemic in nature. For example, about 29% of the impairment of the Genesee River is due to agricultural nutrients, many of which are deposited in Lake Ontario and contribute to the lake’s problems with eutrophication. In contrast, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative offers a litany of funding opportunities that directly address the needs of the upper Genesee River. EPA officials at the meeting in Rochester affirmed that (a) grants are available for the upper reaches of river systems feeding into Lake Ontario as long as applications can be articulated in terms of the benefits to Lake Ontario; (b) many of these grants do not require matching funds; (c) these grants emphasize wildlife habitat, fishery restoration, land preservation, agricultural nutrient reduction, and other concerns not normally targeted in infrastructure projects; (d) some of these grants can be used for purchase of lands that accomplish suc h goals. This offers an exciting and unprecedented opportunity for correcting the years of neglect of the upper Genesee River, which has been counterproductive conservation efforts directed at the lower Genesee River and Lake Ontario.
illages along the upper Genesee River. The Genesee River Wilds Project needs the expertise, technical skills, and resources of better-equipped outside agencies and large non-profit organizations proactively brought to bear by leaders in these groups who can see how protecting the upper Genesee River fits into the bigger conservation picture. Recent news suggests that New York is indeed thinking more collaboratively and comprehensively, but I urge that these discussions include a much bolder effort to improve the upper Genesee River than in previous generations.
ture. Even many of the farmers who own land along the Genesee River have joined in supporting us because of their own families’ needs for more economic opportunities. These developments in NY and the greater speed with which the project’s goals have been adopted in PA illustrate why we continue to insist on our rather pragmatic approach to conservation. More idealistic approaches emphasizing “pure” conservation without accompanying recreational development of protected lands are ultimately counterproductive because they do not recruit as many local allies in the rural communities that guard most of our country’s natural resources.