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Recent News on the PA side of the Rochester-Williamsport Greenway and the Headwaters of the Genesee River

Allen Kerkeslager reports…
The  North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, has  drafted plans for integrating Potter County into a state-wide program for developing greenways in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania.  Included in their ranking is about 40 miles of rail-trails to connect the famous Pine Creek Trail to trail systems along the Genesee River south to the NY/PA state line.  This will bring a fresh infusion of PA state, regional, and local resources to the completion of the Rochester-Williamsport Greenway. 
Most notably, regional planning commission officials have identified the number one priority for trail development in Potter County as the completion a new westward extension of the famous Pine Creek Trail to the sources of Pine Creek (west of Galeton, PA).  At its western terminus, this new Pine Creek Trail extension will connect with another new rail-trail (“the North Border Trail”) that will extend southward from the NY/PA border near Genesee, PA, to the source of the east branch of the Genesee River between Ulysses and Gold, PA.  

These two trails will connect near a special site marking the triple divide that embraces the sources of the Genesee River, the Allegheny River, and the Susquehanna River (West Branch and Pine Creek).  Together these two trails will link the current trailhead of the Pine Creek Trail at Ansonia, PA, with a rail-trail in NY that follows the Genesee River south from Wellsville, NY, to the NY/PA state line (the WAG Trail, which was recently acquired by NYSDEC).

The North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission will hold a public meeting to collect final comments on its draft of the trail systems in Potter County, PA, in the Gunsberger Building in Coudersport, PA, at 1:00 pm on April 15.  

For additional details about developments in the Rochester-Williamsport greenway on the PA side and updates on the Genesee River Wilds Project (, contact Allen Kerkeslager, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, at or (610) 660-1121.
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Rochester-Williamsport Greenway in the Williamsport Sun Gazette

NY-PA trail blends recreation, conservation

POSTED: February 21, 2010
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When they decided they had a common interest of creating recreational trails, two professors determined it was time to band together with one another and others to blaze a 230-mile path connecting Williamsport and Rochester, N.Y.

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.

Environmental improvements

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.

Project offerings

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.

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The missing link, aka the "Tweenway Spur"

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:

The view from Scottsville Rd East to RIT:

The view at the GVGreenway-Pipeline intersection (380 degrees) :

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).

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RIT as interchange for Genesee Valley Greenway, Lehigh Valley North Trail, and, of course, RochesterGreenway

RIT should build a bike bridge across the river and be a bike bridge joining the Genesee Valley Greenway and the Lehigh Valley North Trail.

As previously noted, Mitch Rosen and I have come to realize that RIT could connect the Genessee Valley Greenway (just south of Jefferson Rd) and the Lehigh Valley North Trail (LVNT) up to UR and the City.
This might be a strategic linkage.
  • 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.
RIT should build a bike bridge across the river and be a bike bridge joining the Genesee Valley Greenway and the Lehigh Valley North Trail.
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RIT could unify the Genesee Valley Greenway and the Rochester Greenway

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.

We went for a brief drive and it looked great, as does some further scrutiny via Google Earth!

The missing link
The big picture

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Rediscovering the Rambling River

From Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
and there’s much more!
Discovered via

A river rebirth in Rochester

What flows through Rochester today is a Genesee that challenges the public perception and the observations of Arch Merrill 66 years ago. It is cleaner. It is more visible. And there are plenty of ways to enjoy it.


Some 60 years after a Democrat and Chronicle reporter Arch Merrill traveled the length of the Genesee River, Jeff Blackwell and Max Schulte hit the road to explore the rambling river and the people connected to it


Investigative reporter Steve Orr takes a look at the water quality of the river and how it has changed over the last 20 years.

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Fwd: Genesee River Wilds Project

From: Allen Kerkeslager <>
Date: Sun, Nov 15, 2009 at 11:43 AM
Subject: Genesee River Wilds Project (Please Forward as Appropriate)

Dear Rochester Area Trail Advocates,

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.

All the best,
 Allen Kerkeslager, Ph.D.
Saint Joseph’s University
(former western New Yorker)

Project Newsletter

Dear Colleagues in Conservation of the Genesee River and Lake Ontario,
This note and the attached documents offer an update on the Genesee River Wilds Project.  Readers interested only in technical details can go directly to the “Program Guide” (in the attachments).  This is only one of a number of documents that originally were prepared for use by US House Representative Eric Massa in dialogues with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Governor David Patterson (below).  But they deserve wider dissemination.  Please feel free to forward this to others who may be encouraged to support the New York State side of the project.  Relevant contact information is listed in the attached Program Guide and on the project website at  
Some recipients of this note are familiar with the Genesee River Wilds Project and have begun promoting a more holistic approach to the Genesee River watershed.  Those not familiar with the project may consult the Briefing Paper, the longer Program Guide, and the project website (which does not include the budget and some of the technical data found in the Program Guide).  Briefly, the project promotes a comprehensive program of conservation, flood control, recreational development, and economic revitalization along the uppermost (southern) 70 miles of the Genesee River.  The focus of the project is conservation.  The project emphasizes development of recreational infrastructure because the resulting promise of tourism and business development has proven to be the most effective strategy for winning eager support from local officials and landowners in the impoverished rural communities nearby.  The project has implications that that are inter-state and even international in scope because the Genesee River begins in northern Pennsylvania, flows northward all across western New York State before reaching its mouth in Rochester, and is one of the largest rivers feeding into Lake Ontario.  The project merits support from organizations concerned with environmental protection, health, education, recreation, economic revitalization, flood control, and improvement of water quality in the Genesee River and Lake Ontario.
Some points of information and recent news:
(1) Series of articles and videos on the Genesee River: 
The Genesee River Wilds Project website now includes a link to the recent series of videos, articles, and photographs on the Genesee River done by the major Rochester newspaper (Steve Orr, Max Schulte, and Jeff Blackwell, “Rediscovering the Rambling River,” Rochester Democrat and Chronicle); see   This excellent series covers the entire river watershed from its sources in Potter County, PA, to the riverside park system in Rochester, NY.  Be sure to click around enough to read all the articles and watch all the videos to benefit from its full value.  For those unfamiliar with the Genesee River, this is a painless but informative introduction to many of the environmental and economic issues related to the river system as a whole.
(2) On the attached documents created for US House Representative Eric Massa (NY 29th District, which includes much of the Genesee River):
In early March, a member of the Genesee River Wilds Project committees met with Congressman Eric Massa and his environmental specialist Nathan Sermonis in Congressman Massa’s office in Washington, D.C.  This was followed a few weeks later by a fuller meeting between five members of the project committees and Congressman Massa in his office just outside of Rochester in Pittsford, NY.  Massa requested that we compile a series of documents that could be forwarded to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and to Governor David Patterson.  The most important of these documents are in the attachments (a briefing paper; a budget summary; the Program Guide).  The new Program Guide effectively replaces the project’s older Comprehensive Program document that was created when the project first began a year ago.  The most important additions are the provisional budget, maps, and other technical information.
The new Program Guide and other attached materials should be useful for your own federal congressional representatives, state officials, agency directors, and leaders of non-profit organizations.  Although the Program Guide was written for use by officials from New York, it has been designed to address the needs of both the New York side an
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.
(3) Other developments on the NY side since the project began last year: 
Although some of recipients of this note may have been involved with discussions about the Genesee River Wilds Project and patiently supplied information and feedback as early as April of 2008, in the last few weeks the Genesee River Wilds Project has celebrated what may arguably be identified as its first anniversary.  The formation of our current committees emerged from large meetings in Belmont, NY, on August 11-13, 2008, with key officials from various New York State agencies, county and municipal legislators from Allegany County, NY, and representatives of various non-profit groups.  I am especially grateful to individuals from state agencies who took time from busy schedules to come to that first meeting a year ago, including Russell Biss, New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Region 9; Scott Cornett, NYSDEC Region 9; Michael Miecznikowski, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP) Allegany Region; and Ray Goll, NYSOPRHP Genesee Region.  Since that time Don Sweezy and others at the New York State Dept. of Transportation (NYSDOT) Region 6 office in Hornell have been quite supportive.  A couple officials from this office graciously made time for a meeting with us in January on short notice.  I am especially grateful for the continued work of my colleagues on the project committees in New York, including Bill Hart (president of the Allegany County  Chamber of Commerce when the project started, more recently squeezing in time to chair the chamber’s project committee while still trying to keep up his jewelry business); Gretchen Gary (Executive Director, Allegany County Soil and Water Conservation District); Eric Grace (Executive Director, Genesee Valley Conservancy).  John Foels (Director of Development, Allegany County), continues his support, with the more recent addition last fall of Sherry Grugel (Executive Director, Allegany County Chamber of Commerce, and Tourism Director for Allegany County).  The Allegany County legislators have encouraged the project because it provides an avenue for implementing the county’s comprehensive plan.  Officials far downstream in Rochester recognize that cleaning up the Genesee River in their city requires cleaning up the river in the rural areas upstream, so they have been very supportive of our efforts to develop a coalition that will address the river system as a whole.  Here special thanks goes to Charles Knauf, Environmental Health Project Analyst of the Monroe County (NY) Health Department in Rochester and Paul Sawyko of the Rochester area Water Education Collaborative.  Other collaborative relationships have been developed with the Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway and other groups.  Steve Winslow and his colleagues in the Army Corps of Engineers at the Genesee River’s Mt. Morris Dam kindly hosted a meeting last spring and in other ways have helped to foster such collaboration.  Biologists from colleges and universities have been supportive from the very beginning and one of them helped his institution host one of our meetings with local landowners last January.  The Genesee River Wilds Project held a canoe-kayak trip on the Genesee River in May that went well, despite multiple dunkings and the devastation wreaked on one of the canoes. 
This only gives a snapshot of the new interest in the long-neglected upper Genesee River that is beginning to grow on the New York State side.  I cannot say enough good about my colleagues on the project committees in New York.  Despite the meager financial, technical, and human resources available to them, they continue to hold up under the growing burden of the work on the ground.
(4) Need for technical assistance and other forms of support from better-equipped outside organizations and agencies:
One of the reasons why the upper Genesee River has been neglected for so many decades is that it passes through sparsely pop
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. 
The Genesee River Wilds Project is a great opportunity for anyone who has long wished to rectify the years of relative neglect of the distant upper sections of the Genesee River and thereby improve the lower Genesee River, the urban riverside landscape of Rochester, and the water quality of Lake Ontario.  Organizations such as Trout Unlimited have played key roles in various smaller projects along the upper Genesee River for a number of years.  But for the first time, the upper Genesee River has a small group of local people with enough courage and vision to take up the challenge of improving the river and the nearby areas on the much more massive scale that these resources truly deserve.  But this small group needs help from outside.
I urge recipients of this note to contact them to foster the kind of collaboration needed to grapple with a project with such a massive scope.  Their contact information and that of others less formally involved is listed on the project website and in the attached Program Guide.
(5) Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (including attached “Interagency Funding Guide”):
For some specific examples of possible funding for the Genesee River Wilds Project, one may consult the project website, which includes a “links” page with a long list of organizations that supply grants that might be relevant to the project.  Once again, it would be helpful for an outside agency and other groups with more expertise and human resources than available in our own small group to collaborate with my colleagues in New York to help them secure some of these grants.  The most exciting new source for grants is the Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is still so new that some readers of this note may not have had time to consider how important this is for the Genesee River.  Probably some of readers or representatives of their organization were at the Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative meeting in Rochester on July 29.  As a representative of the Genesee River Wilds Project, I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet some individuals at this meeting face-to-face after many months of conversations with them via e-mail. 
Recipients of this note who are not aware of this new federal program (proposed $475 million) should see .The EPA officials at the July
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.
Grants from the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that might be relevant to the area of the upper Genesee River targeted by the Genesee River Wilds Project are listed in the “Interagency Funding Guide” (dated August 12, 2009), which is in the attachments and in the box labeled “Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Activities” at . This guide reveals an abundance of research grants that might attract collaborative efforts from biologists and other specialists with expertise potentially related to the Genesee River and its systemic relationship to Lake Ontario.  There are also a number of new grants that could potentially be used to support projects directed at the sections of the Genesee River targeted by the Genesee River Wilds Project.  For example, from the “Interagency Funding Guide” one could cite (especially ones with an asterisk [*]):  Page 2, Coordinated Implementation on Remedial Action Program; Page 3, Pollution Prevention and Toxics Reduction in the Great Lakes; Page 3, Toxicant TMDL Development; Page 6, Development of Ecosystem Services; Page 6, Emergency Watershed Protection Program *(especially appropriate for upper Genesee River); Page 6, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, non-point source pollution; Page 6, Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program; Page 6, Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control; Page 7, Watersheds Best Management Practices; Page 8, Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Program; Page 9, Great Lakes Basin Candidate Fish Habitat Partnership *(especially appropriate for upper Genesee River because it emphasizes restoring “tributary” fish habitat and removing related impediments, no match required); Page 9, Great Lakes Basin Endangered Species Recovery *(despite improvement in status of bald eagle, this still might be relevant to the identifiable bald eagles’ nest north of Belmont and related habitat at other points along upper Genesee River); Page 9, Great Lakes Watershed Habitat and Species Restoration Initiative *(especially appropriate for the upper Genesee River because it explicitly addresses “stream banks,” includes “brook trout,” and is relevant to other species in this area, such as the bald eagles that make their home along Genesee River); Page 10, North American Wetlands Conservation Act; Page 10, Ecosystem Approach to Infrastructure and Restoration Work *(ideally suited for Genesee River Wilds Project’s interest in developing nature parks with boating access points at bridges because it emphasizes eco-system approach to transportation infrastructure); Page 10, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, habitat and wildlife protection and restoration *(especially appropriate for upper Genesee River); Page 11, Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program *(especially appropriate for upper Genesee River).  Other potentially relevant items include Page 1, Toxic Substances in Brownfield Sites (e.g., Sinclair Oil Refinery in Wellsville, NY); Page 11, Sustain Our Great Lakes.
This new federal funding source offers a unique opportunity to clean up Lake Ontario by developing a strategy for the entire Genesee River as a whole.  This would include the need to address the long-neglected upper Genesee River, not just the areas around its mouth that have received so much more attention in the Great Lakes Legacy Act and in other conservation efforts.  But this will not be accomplished if securing funds depends on the limited staffing, technical expertise, and political clout available to my colleagues in the sparsely populated hillsides and small rural v
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.          
(6) Developments on the Pennsylvania side:
Given that only about ten miles of any given one of the source streams of the Genesee River are in Pennsylvania, it is somewhat ironic that in some ways PA has been more proactive in adopting many of the goals of the Genesee River Wilds Project.  Partly this is because PA takes a much more centralized approach to conservation that is less dependent on local initiative.  Thus already in the spring of 2008, discussions of the project had been shuttled from regional officers in the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) to its Harrisburg headquarters.  This allowed plans for the inter-state multi-use trail that is part of the Genesee River Wilds Project to be incorporated into PA’s statewide-plan for developing recreational greenway trails in all 67 counties in the state.  Planning commission officials in Williamsport, PA, and its county (Lycoming County) also expressed support for the Genesee River Wilds Project at an early stage because the plans for a multi-use inter-state trail system would result in an economically productive trail reaching from Rochester, NY, to Williamsport, PA.  But support for the Genesee River Wilds Project in PA is not limited to the state or broader regional level.  State conservation agency officials in PA were able to recruit local support in rural communities because conservation projects in PA are consistently and seamlessly combined with development of recreational infrastructure and other features that aggressively promote tourism and economic development in such communities.  This is admittedly easier to do in PA than in NY because the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) strategically combines in one agency the missions of conservation and recreation, which New York State relegates to two separate agencies (NYSDEC and NYSOPRHP).  Thus eager support for connecting the Pine Creek Trail system in PA to the Genesee River Wilds Project trail system and related trails in NY quickly emerged among some of the community leaders in rural Potter County, PA, which nurtures the sources of the Genesee River.  Individuals in this county needed little convincing about the economic potential of the Genesee River Wilds Project because over the last few decades they have witnessed the stunning success of the nearby Pine Creek Trail in dramatically transforming the economy of neighboring rural counties in PA (most notably PA’s Tioga County, where the advantages of combining conservation and recreation are visibly demonstrated by the burgeoning economy of the small town of Wellsboro).  As a result, one of my colleagues in NY (Sherry Grugel) was invited to a Pine Creek Watershed planning session in Potter County, PA, and benefitted from the suggestions of friends in PA who are interested in the Genesee River Wilds Project.  Developments in PA have reached a stage in which I am confident that the project’s goals for the PA side will be completed, even if the current problems with the state budget slow progress down a bit.
(7) One final note on why development of recreational infrastructure is just important to the Genesee River Wilds Project as conservation:
As already mentioned and as is clear from our budget, the Genesee River Wilds Project emphasizes the development of recreational infrastructure that can be used for promotion of tourism.  This strategy for recruiting local allies for river conservation in rural communities emerged from direct negotiations with local people in these communities.  Emphasis on recreational business development and tourism associated with the project’s proposed forested conservation buffer along the Genesee River helped us to alleviate local concerns that creating this buffer might result in loss of revenues from property taxes and agricul
  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.
 I trust that the information in this note and its attachments is helpful.  Some of recipients of this note have expressed support for the Genesee River Wilds Project, but any who would like to have their names and organizational contact information listed on the “Contacts” page of our website should let me know.  This will make collaboration easier.
 All the best in your own work in protecting the Genesee River and Lake Ontario.   
Allen Kerkeslager, Ph.D.
Saint Joseph’s University
Preferred paper mailing address (home address):
833 Fairfax Road
Drexel Hill, PA 19026
Office: 610-660-1121