WELLSVILLE — Dream big is what Brenda Szabo is advising villages and towns along the Genesee River when it comes to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.

The program is a state-run effort that helps towns and villages across the state maximize their waterfronts to enhance recreation and tourism. While it has been utilized by communities on lakes and oceans, there is no reason it cannot be used to help develop riverfronts.

“The state is very excited to have the Genesee River involved in this program,” said Szabo, who as head of the Wellness Program at Jones Memorial Hospital has been an integral part of bringing the LWRP to the county.

She explained the project to the members of the Thelma Rogers Genealogical and Historical Society recently.

The project has been in the works since 2019, after Szabo attended a meeting hosted by the county planning board and tourism board concerning “branding” for the county to enhance tourism. At that meeting three features were recognized for their present and future impact — The Great Wellsville Balloon Rally, Tall Pines ATV Park and the Genesee River.

“We haven’t done anything with the river,” she pointed out.

The LWRP provides $200,000 for the development of plans for river revitalization projects. It does not provide funding for projects. The state provided $150,000 for the plan while 10 communities and towns along the river from the town of Willing to the town of Hume each chipped in $5,000 for the development of the plan. The scope of the project and the plans is being compiled by Ingalls Planning and Development of Rochester.

The firm developed the plan that led to enhancement of Rochester’s inner harbor.

Szabo told the historical society that once the plan is developed it will be sent to the state for approval and forwarded to the federal government. When grant funds become available for one or more of the proposed projects the county will be notified, and the grant writing process will begin.

“If you have a project in the approved plan than you are more likely to get grant funding for it, when grant funds become available,” she said.

Starting this summer, representatives from Ingalls will be hosting brainstorming meetings in each of the 10 municipalities included in the LWRP.

“Dream big when you look at the possibilities for river revitalization,” Szabo said adding that the boundaries of the projects are within one mile of the river and may include downtown projects.

Projects could also include such items as ropes courses and zip lines across the river, riverfront cafes or parks, river access points and BNBs, canoe and kayak launches. One suggestion is two reduce the arterial around the village of Wellsville to just two-lanes and transforming the two lanes closest to the river into parks and walkways for biking and walking and even music venues.

“These projects may not take place for 20 or more years,” she said. “This is a way we can preserve the future for our children and grandchildren. What can we do to attract people to the area and utilize our waterfront,” she asked?

No meetings have been scheduled as of yet, but Szabo is advising people in the towns and villages that are part of the LWRP to start imagining how their communities may benefit from a river-related project. The meetings will take place before Fall, current conditions allowing, and will be advertised in local news media and on social networks.

She reminded those present, “If it is in the plan, it is more likely to get grant funding. Be visionary and dream big for the future of our communities.”

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