By Chris Potter, The Evening Tribune
The Upper Genesee Trail is nearing the one-year anniversary of the launch of the latest addition to its trailhead. The milestone may provide cause for a moment of reflection, a brief respite to consider how far the trail has come, but Allegany Trails, Inc. is too busy forging ahead with future successes to spend too much time in the past.
The Wellsville non-profit organization opened the newest stretch of the Upper Genesee Trail on July 14, 2011. The 12-foot wide stone path runs on the west side of the Genesee River, from the south line of the village of Wellsville to the high school.
The recent addition is between the Alfred State College campus on South Brooklyn Avenue and the river. A foot bridge over the Genesee takes walkers to the east bank and Island Park, providing Wellsville with a hub for outdoor recreational activities 365 days of the year.
“Hiking, biking, walking, running, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tree identification,” said Allegany Trails President Bill Dibble, ticking off the potential uses of the Upper Genesee Trail. “It’s year-round activity, to get people out and enjoy nature and the beauty of what we have in this county.”
Dibble’s vision for the trail is extensive and far-reaching, though the future is now for certain aspects of the plan. Allegany Trails hopes to line the Upper Genesee Trail with several dozen benches to provide travelers with a place to relax and enjoy the view.
The 8-foot long metal benches will have the name of sponsoring businesses or families cut into them, providing a lasting legacy along the trail for generations to come. An $800 donation covers the entire cost of the bench, from freight to installation. The first two benches are on display at Steuben Trust and Community Bank in Wellsville.
The community can also take ownership of the trail by adopting a section. Jones Memorial Hospital has done just that, adopting a stretch that will someday feature fitness stations along the trail. “We’ve written a couple grants (for the fitness stations),” Dibble said. “They weren’t funded. You don’t give up. You apply again.”
Allegany Trails is working to extend the Upper Genesee Trail past the high school and on to the Riverwalk Plaza. From there, the group hopes to put its base of Wellsville far in the rearview mirror, pushing on to Scio and then Belfast, where it can link up with the Genesee Valley Greenway. That trail follows the Genesee River to the south end of Letchworth State Park and north all the way to Rochester.
“We want to have the Rochester folks and the Rochester Bicycling Club be able to actually tour the whole Genesee River, at least down to Genesee, Pa.,” Dibble said. “It can be done. It just takes a little bit of effort to put the pieces together.
“That will help not only tourism (locally in Allegany County), but it’s good for people who are already here. It’s good for families.”
Allegany Trails is working to expand the Upper Genesee Trail holdings in Pennsylvania, where the Genesee begins. It also has its hand in forming and growing other trails around Allegany County, an agenda that includes joint efforts with Alfred University.
The all-volunteer organization depends on the passion of its members and the generosity of the public to advance its mission. Insurance costs alone require around $3,000 a year in donations, Dibble said.
Any trail system is constantly evolving, and the Upper Genesee is no different. The trail has gone by several different names, including the River Trail and the WAG Trail, after the former Wellsville-Addison-Galeton railroad.
“In a grant we wrote for the DEC it was called River Trail, but there’s lots of rivers,” Dibble recalled. “We thought about it, kicked around some ideas. We said let’s call it the Upper Genesee Trail. Of course the Genesee, that goes to Rochester. The Upper Genesee, that’s us.
“We wanted to be logical and tie the name to where we are. Prior to the WAG it was the Buffalo Susquehanna Railroad, the B&S. That became the B&O, and that was there for many years. I think as time goes by the Upper Genesee Trail is the proper name for it.”
To sponsor a bench or get involved with the trail, call Dibble at (585) 928-2626, or email firstname.lastname@example.org