MAYVILLE - Chautauqua County has been approved for Appalachian Regional Commission funding, County Executive Greg Edwards said Monday in his weekly memo.
The ARC funding, administered by Southern Tier West, will be used to develop the first two phases of the Equestrian Trail System Plan in the towns of Charlotte and Cherry Creek. The trail plan was created in 2011 by the county Department of Planning and Economic Development through recommendations in the county's comprehensive plan.
"Nine out of 10 people we asked said the county should preserve and protect its natural assets there," said Mark Geise, county Planning and Economic Development deputy director. "We did the research and laid out the whole plan."
The county will receive $150,000 from ARC, with another $150,000 coming from "local cash and in-kind contributions," including the county, county Industrial Development Agency and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The project will include upgrading approximately five miles of trails and upgrades to existing trailhead and parking areas and road crossings. Picnic area, kiosks, trails signage and hitch posts also will be installed.
The first two phases of the plan will eventually make approximately 20 miles available for horseback riding when connected with Cockaigne's trails near Cherry Creek.
"Cherry Creek could certainly use the boost," Geise said. "They really benefit from the snowmobile trails in the winter and we feel this could be similar in the opposing season. ... It will make Cockaigne's trails more attractive."
The equestrian plan, as a starting point, identified an opportunity to develop a 35-mile trail loop utilizing existing trails and rights-of-way in the eastern part of the county. The loops, in Charlotte and Cherry Creek, are expected to "connect major hubs" from Boutwell State Forest through Boutwell Hill State Forest and Cockaigne Ski Area.
The initial project, identified as a top priority in the recently completed county Greenway Plan, is expected to start in the fall and be completed by next year.
From there the county will look at completing the third phase of the equestrian plan, further establishing the massive trail loop. Securing the funding at that point should be easier, too.
"The thing with ARC is that they like to see phases," Geise said. "By the fall of 2013 we will look to start the next phase and go through the next fall."
There are four phases in the plan, with an ultimate goal to connect to equestrian trials in Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
Geise said a Greenway Plan unveiling ceremony will take place at the Mayville Park pavilion on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.