WELLSVILLE — From the town of Willing to the town of Hume, the course plotted today for the Genesee River will impact the lives of our children’s children, Brenda Szabo told the Wellsville Village Planning Board recently.
Szabo heads up the local Waterfront Revitalization committee under the New York State Waterfront Revitalization Plan. She is vice president of outpatient services at UR Jones Memorial Hospital and chair of the hospital’s Wellness Committee.
She told the board the hospital recently received recognition from the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), which announced that UR Medicine Jones Memorial Hospital has been awarded the 2020 Community Health Improvement Award in recognition of its outstanding Promoting Healthy Lifestyles Program.
“The hospital’s community wellness efforts went into high gear in 2014,” she said, “when we learned that Allegany County has some of the highest obesity rates in the state. When we noticed that there were no dedicated walking trails in the village of Wellsville, it made sense for us to focus on ways to provide accessible, free and easy-to-use trails to help families increase their physical activity, which would help prevent chronic disease.”
The initiative included a street agreement focused on safe roadway access for walkers, bicyclists and runners, rebuilding two bridges on the Wellsville-Addison-Galeton Railroad trail, completion of a pedestrian walkway under the roadway at Riverwalk Plaza and approval of a $150,000 grant for Local Waterfront Revitalization for the 10 communities bordering the Genesee River in Allegany County.
The grant requires a $50,000 match, Szabo said, and each of the communities — town of Willing, town and village of Wellsville, Scio, town of Amity, village of Belmont and the towns of Angelica, Belfast, Caneadea and Hume — each contributed $5,000 to the project.
Each town has been encouraged to think big, Szabo said.
“Think pie in the sky” for multiuse development of the waterfront, she said. “It may not take place in our lifetimes or our children’s but if an idea is included in the plan, when funding becomes available, it may take place.”
While the communities have signed on to the initiative, Szabo said that much of the project has been put on hold due to the coronavirus, but plans are now in the works for a consultant, Matt Ingalls of Ingalls’ Planning (planner for the Rochester Harbor Front) to speak to the communities this spring.
“This planned development of the river is not for us,” Szabo said. “It is for the future of our children’s children and to make the river in Allegany County a destination location.”
She noted that some ideas for developing the Genesee waterfront in the county include restaurants, a zipline, extended kayak use, parks, beaches and the development of associated businesses. Szabo also said that a multi-use river trail is also under consideration, which would connect the county to the Pine Creek Trail System in Pennsylvania, creating a route from Lake Ontario to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon in Tioga County.
After Szabo’s talk, the village planning board, which is in the final stages of developing a comprehensive plan, discussed adding its approval of waterfront development to its plan.
The Genesee River is unique, and one of only 60 rivers in the world that flow north. According to the “Geography of New York State,” there is only one river that completely crosses New York state and that is the Genesee River. It rises in the hills of Potter County, Pa., at the “Triple Divide” near Gold, and from there it flows north about 180 miles until it empties into Lake Ontario.
Of its sister rivers, the Allegheny joins the Monongahela at Pittsburgh to form the the Ohio River, making its way to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. The Pine Creek watershed becomes the Susquehanna River and flows into Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.