ALLEGANY — It was quite fitting that several of the people who attended Wednesday’s dedication of the Higgins Trail Park for the Allegheny River Valley Trail arrived at the ceremony on bicycles.
The trail, as well as the small park, were created through the efforts of Joe and Cecily Higgins, with the park named in honor of the couple for their years of supporting the trail that covers three miles between the Allegany and Olean communities.
Prior to the ceremony, Joe Higgins said he was in “shock” when he first learned the park would be dedicated to him and his wife.
“I never, ever imagined this,” Joe Higgins admitted while standing near the new sign that was to be unveiled by him. Much to the enjoyment and applause of the crowd gathered, the tarp covering the sign was blown off by the wind midway through comments made by Allegany Town Councilman Bob Parker.
“This is something the town has wanted to do for quite a few years,” Parker said of the dedication. Parker noted that Joe Higgins, who came up with the concept for the trail in 1992, has worked tirelessly as its chairman alongside his wife to support the trail since its completion in 1998. Joe Higgins also implants the memorial bricks in the park that are sold to raise funds for the trail, as well as clears debris off the walkway.
Joe Higgins joked that when the town board members called him in to talk about naming the park in his honor and the new sign, he thought they were calling about the need for funding and did not bring his checkbook.
On a serious note, he thanked Parker as well as Kathy Martin, Allegany Town Supervisor, and other community officials “for making this happen.”
He recalled “six years of hurdles and things we had to overcome to get the trail built.” And yet, he added, there were always people there to help out, despite the skepticism of some in the community.
In the end, the trail turned out to be an asset to the community, and is widely used and taken care of by area residents, Joe Higgins added.
Cecily Higgins said she not only enjoys the trail, but also the people who use it.
“We meet so many different people and everybody has a new story,” she remarked. “All the time, people just appreciate it.”
For her part, Martin said she and her family also love the trail and use it frequently. In fact, she noted that she had ridden her bicycle to the ceremony, after riding to Allegany Town Hall earlier in the day.
Wendy Brand, who has been involved with the trail since its inception, said the walkway came together as quickly as it did because Joe Higgins “wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Especially since there were a lot of nos,” Brand said of the project that involved both the town of Allegany and Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce.
A young woman named Lindsay Horn said she had used the trail as a child and now takes her own children on it.
“They love it and it’s just a fun activity,” Horn said of her children. “They love going to the bridge and throwing rocks off it, going down to the river and using bikes on it, so thank you. I think you’ve touched a lot more people than you know.”
Another audience member, Chuck Eddy told the couple, “In a world of bad news, it’s nice to see what model citizens you are and the impact you’ve made.”
Audience member Mary Kay Worth, who has a disability and uses an electric scooter for traveling around town, also thanked Joe and Cecily.
“Because of this trail, Joe … I feel safe enough to get out and go,” Worth said. “I thank you because it’s made a huge difference for my independence.”
Higgins said for more information on purchasing memorial bricks to support the trail, call the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation at 301-2723.