As Ellicottville welcomes visitors and athletes from far and wide for the Centurion road bike race and Holiday Valley hosts area mountain bike races, it makes sense to ask: “Where can the average person go to run behind a jog stroller, take for a leisurely walk, ride bikes with the whole family, walk the family dog or rollerblade without having to deal with traffic or rugged terrain?”
With the number of bike riders living in the area, in addition to tourists coming here looking for a variety of year round recreational opportunities, a local paved trail could be another reason for people to visit and stay in Ellicottville. It would also offer another option for those who are not in competition shape to enjoy the outdoors.
Like the nearby Allegheny River Valley Trail, which runs through nearby Allegany and Olean, it could be built as a handicapped accessible (flat) trail and would provide another safe, traffic-free, recreational facet to Ellicottville’s offerings.
In a conversation with Joseph Higgins, an Olean businessman and one of the founders of the Allegheny River Valley Trail, he said it took about six years, to bring the project to fruition in 1998 at a cost of about $560,000. He and proponents of the trail worked with the local chamber of commerce, local governments, private landowners, consultants and government funders to build the trail. In its many years of use, the trail has needed very little maintenance and is used year round.
Bonnie Koschir, vice president of operations for Holiday Valley, said she visited Aspen, Co., many years ago and noted then how many ski towns in the West have great bike paths. While Holiday Valley is not currently planning a trail like this, she said that personally she has “always thought that it would be a good idea.”
Upon closer examination of similar resort communities, it quickly becomes evident that many of these places have invested in the health and safety of their citizens and visitors by working jointly with local governments and private landowners to write intermunicipal agreements to construct these multifunctional paths. In some cities, commuters have taken the next step and have opted to ride their bikes to work via trail systems rather than fight road traffic.
“Advantages to trails include enjoyment, recreation, health and even commuting.”
Koschir said, “I look at it as the same type of project as the library. If you can get community support and all of that, that it’s something that I personally, and I would think Holiday Valley, would be a proponent of it.”
Dennis Baldwin, owner of the Ellicottville Bike Shop, is enthusiastically in favor of such an endeavor.
“I think it would be great. There’s a lot of people who would like a bike path like that. It would be great to have some kind of easy path to go around the village,” he said. “We (at the shop) talk about that all the time, actually.”
Baldwin said “families and people that are a little older who don’t want to go into the woods to get dirty riding singletrack” often come into his shop asking about the availability of a recreational path. He said, “I think it would be really cool and it’s much needed in a town like this.”
While Baldwin currently doesn’t offer bike rentals, he said he will soon begin offering this service with cruiser-style bikes that are fun for riding around town. He said he would definitely expand his rental inventory if Ellicottville had a bike path.
Mike Nenno, one of the organizers of the Holiday Valley Wednesday Night Bike Series, may be an avid mountain biker, but he also agrees that a paved multi-use trail would be a major attraction for Ellicottville. He said, “I think it’s a great idea. I think a trail like this would be used by all types of people.”
Yes, it’s easy to say, “Let’s build a trail.” However, it’s also important to address other concerns such as liability and property values, but municipalities have liability insurance that covers them and length of roads. Also, New York State has a recreational use statute that greatly minimizes liability for landowners who allow their land to be used for recreation, do not charge for its use, and do not engage in gross negligence regarding failure to warn about manmade hazards that may have been installed in a regularly used path.
There is even documentation that shows how real property values have increased when there is easy access to a recreational trail. Those who oppose trails often will have a worn path in their yard linking to the trail after it is built because they use it so much themselves. Homeowners even include “easy access to bike trail” as a major selling point in real estate listings.
In addition, recreational trails connecting main points in a community have been shown to reduce pollutants and fuel consumption, while improving the health of users. Ellicottville is known for its resort and fitness lifestyle, as well as its varied recreational opportunities. A multi-use trail could be another winning element complementing Ellicottville’s charm and functionality as a four-season destination while equally benefiting its residents.