By Deb Everts
Construction for Phase One of the Ellicottville-Great Valley Trail has begun.
With written land rights approved on all the properties involved, trail work is underway from the Ellicottville town center over to the Tim Hortons area along Route 219.
Mark Alainello, of MDA Engineering, said the work planned for this year was to get Phase One done, which was cutting trees and clearing. He said that work began Sept. 9 and would likely be wrapped up this week. The hope is to get the area stabilized and covered before the end of the month, but that will be it for this year.
“The trail is definitely not ready for use and should be considered a construction site for the time being,” he said. “It would not be safe for public use, so we are asking people not to use the trail. Signs to that effect are being posted this week. There are a number of culverts, a bridge and numerous safety amenities that need to be part of the final construction before it is safe to use.”
The trail linking Ellicottville to Great Valley was first proposed about six years ago. Prior to this work, the only thing that has been completed is the structure at the trailhead at the town center, which was built by BOCES students two years ago. Along the way, there have been challenges such as fundraising, insurance, easements, permits and outreach.
According to Alainello, the Wetlands Disturbance Permit from the Army Corp of Engineers was approved allowing tree cutting during the dry months of the year. That also involved a release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for endangered and threatened species. He said northern long-eared bats could have been an issue, but there are none documented in the town of Ellicottville and they have not encountered any.
Part of the Downtown Redevelopment Initiative includes plans for establishing a portion of the trail through the town and village. The committee is looking to extend the trail towards the village by looping around the Arboretum, passing through the Village Park, traveling along Elk Creek by Tim and Bonnie’s and coming out onto Elizabeth Street. It will be about 1.5 miles.
When completed, the trail will be approximately 15 miles of multi-use, paved trails linking Ellicottville to Great Valley and east to the Holiday Valley Tubing Park. Alainello said some portions could be 10 feet wide, but the first phase is being planned as an 8-foot-wide trail and will probably be opened first as a stone dust trail like the Pat McGee Trail. It will connect businesses, resorts, Ellicottville Central School and all other stopping points along the way.
“That is our masterplan, but we have been coordinating with other area trail groups and the (Ralph C. Wilson Jr.) Foundation with ideas of being an interal part of a trail network that could extend from Niagara Falls to the Pennsylvania line, then east to connect with the Genesee Valley Trail which connects with the Erie Canal Trail,” he said.
Alainello said finding sources for funds to build the trail has been their biggest challenge. He said the committee has authorized the spending of $10,000 for this first step but, beyond grading, they’ll need to raise extra funds.
“As far as if and when work will start up again next year, that is going to depend on fundraising,” he said. “This can take the form of grants, which we are pursuing, and can also be from contributions from individuals. We are going to try to keep making headway while we seek grants and private donations to make that happen.”
For the Phase One section, Alainello said the committee applied three times for Department Of Transportation (D.O.T.) grants, but all three were denied. It’s federal money that comes through the state and it’s called a Transportation Alternatives Program (T.A.P.) grant.
“No luck with that, yet, but we are working with other groups and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation on a different approach,” he said. “Right now, there is an active round of funding being proposed.”
Alainello said the committee applied for grant funding from the “Blue Fund,” through Blue Cross Blue Shield and were finalists in the consideration but, unfortunately, they did not get awarded the funding. He said they will try again next year.
To benefit the project, the committee has been holding an annual EVGV Trail Ham and Turkey Raffle, in June, at the Ellicottville American Legion the past three years. Alainello said they raise about $3,500 from that event each year. To find out more about the EVGV Trail, visit online at evgvtrail.org.