2017-09-09 / Front Page

Genesee River: thinking bigger


Genesee River Wilds officers Harmon Smith (left) and Bill Hart traveled to the upper reaches of the river to launch their kayaks and explore the potential for development of a regional trail. The river and a former railroad corridor are both seen as assets that could boost the broader efforts. Genesee River Wilds officers Harmon Smith (left) and Bill Hart traveled to the upper reaches of the river to launch their kayaks and explore the potential for development of a regional trail. The river and a former railroad corridor are both seen as assets that could boost the broader efforts. Potter County has two opportunities to link up with two efforts to support outdoor recreation and tourism along the Genesee River.

Two officers of the Genesee River Wilds (GRC) organization recently took a significant kayak trip from the village of Hickox, near the village of Genesee, across the New York State border to demonstrate the area’s potential.

After a heavy rainstorm that made the waters navigable, GWC president Bill Hart and board member Harmon Smith put in where the Genesee’s middle branch is met by its western branch. They floated and paddled to Wellsville, N.Y., emerging from their trip singing the praises of that river stretch.

Genesee Township is already being courted to join in an ambitious plan to develop the Genesee- Susquehanna Greenway, a recreation trail that’s envisioned to stretch from Lake Ontario in Rochester to Chesapeake Bay.

Much progress has been made in New York State, but the development has been minimal across the state line. Efforts are now underway to engage property owners along the trail corridor and establish detours for those sections that may not fall into place.

A key leg of the trail is the Wellsville, Addison and Galeton (WAG) Railroad right-of-way, built in 1895- 96 to connect Wellsville, N.Y., with Galeton.

If the promoters can establish that Wellsville to Galeton link, crossing through Potter County enroute to the Pine Creek Rail Trail in Tioga County, the Genesee- Susquehanna Greenway could be well on its way to becoming a reality.

It could eventually connect to the popular Susquehannock Trail System in Potter County, and perhaps to the Coudersport & Port Allegany Railroad right-of-way into McKean County.

Ron Abraham spearheaded development of trail sections north of the border after the WAG’s right-of-way was acquired by New York State in 2009. Abraham said a connected trail system can boost tourism.

“The more miles of trail you have, the more attractive it is for somebody to come from out of the area,” he said. “I do a lot of bicycling myself and I go to other trails and ride. If towns that have been hurting can promote this kind of tourism, it really helps.”

“Businesses are popping up in areas that have trails -- bed and breakfasts, bicycle shops, rental places,” he continued. “A lot of these rail trails follow river corridors, and there are opportunities for kayaking and rafting.”

The Genesee-Susquehanna Greenway already has some support in the Genesee area. A canoe/kayak launch area has been developed at the Genesee Community Park. Members of the Genesee Headwaters Watershed Association have installed trash receptacles along the creek.

At least one individual who owns a portion of the WAG right-of-way in the Genesee area is willing to allow his property to be used.

The WAG line generally follows the meandering path of the Genesee River. It was irreparably damaged by a flood in 1972.

Over the years, sections were used for hiking, bicycling, snowmobile riding and cross-country skiing, with individuals and organizations taking care of maintenance. Part of the grand plan to keep the trail passable from Lake Ontario to the Chesapeake Bay involves finding similar “adopters” to help with maintenance.

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