Equestrians join together to begin constructing horse trails

CHERRY CREEK – Despite wet weather conditions, the Chautauqua County Equestrian groups are finally getting the opportunity to fulfill a long-time dream of constructing sustainable equestrian trails in eastern Chautauqua County.

More than 30 individuals representing several equestrian groups (Lou Eibl Corral, Bits ‘n Spurs, Chautauqua Trail Riders) and others spent the weekend receiving classroom training from trail building experts Bud and Gwen Wills. This was followed by in-the-field construction of trail segments off of Lewis Road in the northern section of Boutwell Hill State Forest in Cherry Creek.

The provision of equipment, materials, training and construction oversight for this project have been provided by Chautauqua County and grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). The 35+ mile equestrian trail loop being constructed almost exclusively by volunteers uses primarily existing trails, rights-of-way, and utility corridors, and is expected 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 the town of Charlotte, will connect major hubs by extending from the parking area/trailhead in the northern portion of Boutwell State Forest, south through Boutwell Hill State Forest to Cockaigne Ski Area, east to the village of Cherry Creek, and 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.

The county was approved for two separate $150,000 grants from ARC for Phases I through III, which is being matched with $300,000 of local cash and in-kind contributions to upgrade a total of 25 miles of trails, existing trailhead/parking areas and road crossings, and install picnic areas, kiosks, trail signage, hitch posts and mounting blocks. The entire 35+ mile trail loop is expected to be completed in the fall of 2015.

The county views this as not only a start to completing a substantial portion of the trail network envisioned in the original equestrian trail plan, but a jump start to expanding 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 identified as a top priority project in the County’s Comprehensive Plan: Chautauqua 20/20, as well as 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.