ROCHESTER — Is there a way to link the rural communities in the Southern Tier to the urban communities in the north via the Genesee River as it stretches 154 miles from the Pennsylvania border to Lake Ontario? The Genesee River Watch and its associated members and allies believe there is.
On Thursday, people who are interested in preserving, improving and utilizing the Genesee River for recreation and economic development met for a day-long summit hosted by the Genesee River Watch at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Among those attending the summit were Bill Hart, president and one of the founders of Genesee River Wilds, and Executive Director of the Greater Allegany County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Director Gretchen Hanchett. Both talked about initiatives that use the river as their source.
Since 2014, River Watch has sought to connect people to the Genesee River and develop a healthy and sustainable river ecosystem that is an environmental, recreational and economic asset for all generations.
Although based in Monroe County, River Watch’s activities have been concerned with river projects in Allegany County. After receiving project approval, River Watch received a New York state grant for $147,000 for a project to restore and prevent further stream bank erosion along a 900-foot-long section of the river at Mallard’s Dairy near Caneadea. Work is expected to start in mid-July.
River Watch also recently learned that its application to the Environmental Protection Agency for a $280,000 project to restore and prevent further stream bank erosion on an 1,800-foot section of the river in Fillmore is a finalist in the grant selection for the Great Lakes Restorative Initiative.
And to benefit the entire river, River Watch received a grant in May from the state Pollution Prevention Institute to help develop the Genesee River Institute to provide education for children and adults, outreach and research on the river which will provide college-level and K-12 classes, workshops and summer camps to educate the public about the Genesee River and provide recreational activities.
Throughout the summit, presenters discussed various aspects of the river including fisheries, boating — both commercial and recreational — and the economic impact the Genesee River has on communities.
Marriane Warfle, director of the newly opened Port Rochester Marina, said over $7,000 has been brought into the community since the Marina opened in May from boats and yachts using the lake and river.
Peter Abele described the rise of his Erie Canal Boat Company, which provides access to canoes and kayaks to individuals and groups that want to use the river as well as promoting individual recreation and boating for the aged and handicapped.
Don Jeffries of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council talked about riverside projects that are taking place within the City of Rochester, including the expansion of the Genesee Brew House to include an expansive view of the High Falls.
Rachel Walsh of Greentopia discussed the group’s project to open a viewing platform at the Lower Falls.
Locally, Genesee River Wilds has opened six river access sites in Allegany County thus far, helping to spur the kayaking boom in the region. The group is also involved with environmental projects that seek to reduce erosion and improve the water quality of the Genesee.
For more information, search Genesee River Watch and Genesee River Wilds on Facebook.