Edwards announces approval of grant funding for Phase III of Equestrian Trail Plan

Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards announced that Chautauqua County has been approved for additional Appalachian Regional Commission funding, which is administered by Southern Tier West for the development of Phase III of the Equestrian Trail System Plan in the Town and Village of Cherry Creek.

In an effort to implement projects recommended in Chautauqua County’s Comprehensive Plan Chautauqua 20/20, the Chautauqua County Department of Planning & Economic Developmentwith assistance from the equestrian community developed the Chautauqua County Equestrian Trail System Plan, which was completed in January 2011. As a starting point, the Plan identified an opportunity to develop a 35-plus mile equestrian trail loop using primarily existing trails and rights-of-way in the eastern part of the county to serve as a model for future equestrian trail development throughout the county and region.

The proposed loop, located in the town and village of Cherry Creek and town of Charlotte, will connect major hubs by extending from the parking area/trailhead in the northern portion of Boutwell State Forest, extend south through Boutwell Hill State Forest to Cockaigne Ski Area, east to the village of Cherry Creek, and then return to the northern portion of Boutwell State Forest.

It is anticipated that this initiative will be the first step in creating a regional trail network by connecting to the equestrian trails in neighboring Cattaraugus and Allegheny Counties, both of which have been actively developing trail systems for more than a decade.

Upon completion of the Equestrian Trail Plan, the CCPED set to work in assembling financial resources to support the implementation of Phases I & II of the plan. The county applied for and was approved for $150,000 of grant funding from ARC for Phases I & II in mid-2012 that is being matched with $150,000 of local cash and in-kind contributions to upgrade approximately five miles of trails, upgrade an existing trailhead/parking area and road crossings, and install a picnic area, kiosks, trail signage and hitch posts. This work is currently underway and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2013.

On May 23, the county was informed it was awarded an additional $148,000 grant from ARC for Phase III (to be matched with local funding and in-kind contributions), which will include upgrades to approximately four miles of trails, an existing trailhead/parking area and road crossings, and installation of a picnic area, mounting blocks, kiosks, split rail fencing, trail signage, hitch posts and a gazebo in the section extending from Cockaigne to the north end of the village of Cherry Creek. This $296,000 project, which will make approximately 25 miles available for horseback riding when connected with Phase I/II & Cockaigne’s trails, is expected to be initiated in the spring 2014 and be completed in the fall of 2014.

The county views this as not only a start in completing a substantial portion of the trail network envisioned in the original equestrian trail plan, but a jump start to expand the equestrian trail system across the southern tier region. It is expected that this initiative will generate increased entrepreneurial activity and job opportunities, strengthen the local and regional economy through diversification, and build on the natural assets of the region. This project is also identified as a top priority project in the recently completed Chautauqua County Greenway Plan.

Any comments or questions regarding this project should be addressed to Mark Geise, Deputy Director, Chautauqua County Department of Planning and Economic Development, at geisem@co.chautauqua.ny.us or 661-8912. Details regarding the Chautauqua County Equestrian Trail System Plan and other information about the project can be found on the planning website at: www.planningchautauqua.com.