The increasing popularity of kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) has Cattaraugus County officials scrambling for suitable sites for kayak and canoe launches.
The Allegheny River is a prime candidate for additional launches to join the premier sites: the Linn Launch off Steam Valley Road in Portville and the First Street bridge site in Allegany.
Cattaraugus County lawmakers approved a grant to the City of Olean earlier this year to build a launch with handicapped accessibility on property the city owns off West River Road in the town of Olean.
“The number of people in kayaks on the Allegheny River has quadrupled over the past several years,” Olean Mayor Bill Aiello said. “While there’s not a big outcry for more kayak launches, they are happy to use them.”
The new handicapped-accessible launch off West River Road will be built by city Public Works crews using the $80,000 county grant, the mayor said. Due to a large summer workload, it may not be built until next year, however.
County legislators representing the city, Frank Higgins, Kelly Andreano and Richard Smith, sponsored the resolution to grant the city funding for the kayak/canoe launch, Aiello said.
The mayor said it was originally intended to install a kayak launch at the city’s boat launch on the south side of the South Union Street Bridge.
“We can’t put in a handicapped accessible launch there because we have to keep the launch area open to launch rescue boats,” Aiello said.
That being said, the South Union Street launch — just below the South Union Street bridge — is still a popular place to park and put in with a kayak to drift down river.
A proposed kayak launch on the river near the Four Mile Brewery in Olean fell through last year after the state Department of Environmental Conservation expressed concern that the increased traffic would damage the dike, Aiello said.
The mayor said the city’s new launch site off West River Road, once it is built, “will be a kind of rest place for kayakers coming west from Portville. The next stop is Allegany. It’s great to see all this action on the river. This is a great addition to the community. ”
Aiello noted that despite the increase in traffic on the river, the kayakers and canoers seem to be practicing water safety.
“Don’t go when the river is high and everyone should be wearing a life preserver," the mayor said.
County Legislator Joseph Snyder of Ischua said county officials are looking for other kayak and canoe launch sites around the county, including on the Allegheny in Salamanca, on Ischua Creek from Franklinville to Hinsdale and on Cattaraugus Creek.
The launch sites will be paid for out of a fund created from the sale of timber from county forests. The county realized more than $1 million from the sale of ash trees that were likely to be killed by the emerald ash borer. The county legislature dedicated some of the funds to tourism-related projects like the kayak launches.
“They’d like to put another one in Portville and one in Salamanca working with the Seneca Nation,” Snyder said of the popular launches.