By Deb Everts
Construction on the Ellicottville-Great Valley Trail is expected to begin this summer.
Mark Alainello, of MDA Engineering, said they now have written land rights on all the properties that they need to work on the trail from the Ellicottville town center over to Tim Hortons on Route 219.
So far, the only thing that has been completed is the structure at the trailhead at the town center, which was built by BOCES students in the Building and Construction Trades class two years ago.
Alainello said they did a little bit of grading at that location last summer just to clean the trailhead up and finish it, but they have multiple segments of the trail that they are pursuing in different directions.
“What we’ve always been calling Phase One is from this trailhead at the town center to Tim Hortons parking lot and across the base of the hill,” he said. “There have been a lot of obstacles associated with that, like land rights, and that involved insurance and trying to find somebody to sell the insurance that we needed to satisfy the landowners. That’s all been resolved.”
According to Alainello, the next step was to apply to the Army Corp of Engineers for a Wetlands Disturbance Permit. He said that involved a release from the United States (U.S.) Fish and Wildlife Department for endangered and threatened species.
“So we had all that in place, but since we got those permits, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife have changed some of their rules and refined them a little bit. This is to our advantage because of the northern long-eared bat, which is a threatened species in Cattaraugus County,” he said. “As of right now, there are none documented in the town of Ellicottville. Based on that, Fish and Wildlife should let us go in there and start clearing trees and that should start this year, possibly July, and the worst case would be September.”
Alainello said the Army Corp of Engineers reopened the coordination process with Fish and Wildlife last week and, within a month, they hope to have the release to start cutting trees to clear the trail.
“The interim rule that we were operating under before said we couldn’t remove trees after April 1 which makes it difficult because it’s still winter around here so this revision will allow us to, once it dries out, and our hope is that we can begin the process of clearing the trees and opening this trail up.”
UNFORTUNATELY, one of their problems is money. Alainello said they have enough money to do the tree clearing, but they need some help to get the grading going.
Joe Wright, fundraising and marketing director for the EVGV Trail, said the price on the clearing was roughly $10,000, which they have, but to go beyond grading, they’re talking about some extra funds that they’re going to need to raise.
According to Alainello, the grading will be considerably more costly because of running the equipment, and drainage improvements need to be done. He said there are also a bridge and a large culvert associated with a pedestrian bridge down by Route 219.
“The Cattaraugus County DPW has some surplus materials that has been determined we can use to build the bridge, so that’s a big help. They’ve already committed to let us use those materials, including used steel beams,” he said. “Then, the town of Ellicottville highway department has a used culvert pipe that will work for us that they are going to allow us to use. That’s going to be very helpful, but we still need contractors to install all that, which can cost quite a bit of money. So, getting that whole trail in is … I mean, we had a half a million dollar price tag on this section.”
Alainello referred to the other sections. One starts at the Ellicottville school and comes all the way up to Holiday Valley Road. He said it picks up at the corner of Elk and Mechanics streets and comes out to the library, then crosses the road and goes into the village park up by the horseshoe pits at the American Legion.
“For that section, we’ve applied three times for Department Of Transportation (D.O.T.) grants and we just found out about three weeks ago that our third application was also denied. It’s federal money that comes through the state and it’s called a Transportation Alternatives Program (T.A.P.) grant. We’ll try again and keep trying,” he said. “We’re pursuing options because you need grants. We have the Ham and Turkey Raffle that’s coming up in June. That’s a great fundraiser, but it raises about enough for operating expenses.”
Wright believes that once they break some ground at the trailhead, it will open up some doors for them to pursue other grant funds, as far as the other phases go.
A third section, according to Alainello, is the Elk Creek area that starts on Elizabeth Street and comes through the property on Bristol Lane where Tim and Bonnie’s Pizza is located. He said it comes out on Parkside Drive, right by the entrance to the village park.
“It runs alongside Elk Creek and continues through the village park to the Nannen Arboretum,” he said. “That’s also about a half million dollar project, and we have all the land rights arranged for that. We just submitted an application on Friday for grant funding from what’s called the ‘Blue Fund,’ which is through Blue Cross Blue Shield.”
Alainello said they are asking them for $300,000. If they got that amount, they’ll have to match it with $200,000. He said the grant is supposed to be for people to live healthier lives.
“So, if we are able to get that, there will be a piece of the trail that will be within the arboretum to connect Phase One and the Elk Creek Trail,” he said. “We’re working with the arboretum and we’ve kind of identified a preliminary routing for it, but we haven’t gone any further than that. We have to be sensitive to the trees and the landscaping in there, but the Nannen Arboretum Society is supportive of it.”
When completed, the trail will be approximately 15 miles of multi-use, 10-foot wide paved trails from the Tim Hortons area to Great Valley. It will connect businesses, resorts, Ellicottville Central School and all other stopping points along the way.
Alainello said they are working with the county planning department that is trying to connect with other trails in the region. He said the grand vision, at some point, is people will be able to walk all the way from Ellicottville to Buffalo on a trail.
To benefit the project, the annual EVGV Trail Ham & Turkey Raffle will take place Sunday, June 9 at 1 p.m. at the Ellicottville American Legion, 6500 Maples Road. Tickets are $20 and are available at the MDA Engineers office at 3 Bristol Lane, or at the Ellicottville Chamber. There will be about $4,000 in cash drawings, and people do not have to be present to win. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Nannen Arboretum Society.
Community members interested in getting involved in the project are encouraged to contact Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the EVGV Trail, visit online at evgvtrail.org.