LITTLE VALLEY - A plan to bring a scenic designation on a roadway though Cattaraugus County hit a speed bump that may result in a roadblock last week in the Legislature.
Armed with support from governing bodies in Ashford and the town of Ellicottville, Bob Lennartz, the man behind the Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway Trail, was given a chance to talk to the members of the Cattaraugus County Legislature before they voted on a resolution to support the extension of the trail from Springville, into Ellicottville, possibly beyond, on Route 219. The plan still needs support from Great Valley and Cattaraugus County to be fully armed to move forward.
The trail, intended to protect and educate on the beauty and history of the region, was developed after a trout fishing trip into the county. Since 2002, that idea to bring the statewide program has grown into a 70-mile trail from Orchard Park to Springville, containing 14 signs that tell a bit about the area, point visitors to scenic areas and promote the voyage.
Lennartz, accompanied by Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Brian McFadden, brought the story, as well as the potential of more visitors, to the members of the legislature. Some of those lawmakers were unable to get past a provision that would bring a halt to new signage on the route, placing current signs in a grandfather status.
District 4 Legislator William Sprague, D-Yorkshire, and District 6 lawmaker, Dan Hale, R-Portville, stood against the measure on the grounds that more information on the sign restrictions would need to be studied.
"I am 'in the trade,'" Hale said. "I disagree with the restrictions on signage. I do not agree with something that is restricting and selecting businesses on the signs, making them all look the same. In a business like advertising, to have a sign the same size and look as others is not smart."
Sprague agreed, saying that the county does all sorts of things to "try to attract businesses, not deter them."
"A business without signs is a sign of no business," he said.
After moving to send the resolution to support the passage of the trail through the county back to the Agriculture and Development Committee for more study, Lennartz was given a chance to rebut the positions of the lawmakers.
"The restriction is against additional billboards and off-premise signs," he said. "The signage is consistant in a manner thy they all look alike, similar to the signs you see on the expressway. No businesses are advertised on our signs. They are to draw travelers to interesting points along their way."
The matter will be raise in future committee meetings and more information will be gathered, District 3 legislator, Norman Marsh, R-Little Valley, said.
In a roll call vote, only six legislators voted to keep the measure on the floor. They were District 9 Legislator Susan Lebuhn, D-Salamanca, District 2 Legislator Patrick J. Murphy, R-Cattaraugus, District 10 Legislators, John Padlo, D-Olean, and James J. Snyder, Sr., R-Olean,, District 3 Legislator Howard VanRensselaer, R-Randolph, and District 7 Legislator James L. Boser, D-Allegany.
Prior to the Feb. 26 meeting, Lennartz said the original inclusion of the new trail section into Cattaraugus County was expected to take place in 2015. Lennartz said he feels it can be completed by the end of the year.
"We should be able to get this done," he said. "The key to this whole thing has been the cooperation we have gotten from the Cattaraugus County communities in getting resolutions right away. I think everyone involved on the Cattaraugus County side has a can-do attitude. They made us feel welcome. There are people in Cattaraugus County that are trying to do things for the area. The leaders there are really top-notch."
While there have been no studies done since the placement of the route signs in 2012, and the interpretive signs in 2013 to show any kind of tourist or economic benefit, Lennartz said this is a step in getting to the starting line. He also said he has received several calls about car tours, bus tours and motorcycle runs through the trail. He said the extension into Cattaraugus County is going to help out in the financial and tourism side of development.