The Fred J. Cusimano Westside Overland Trail in Chautauqua Gorge State Forest was recently upgraded with new drainage, reroutings, culverts and a 1.4 mile course “Loop of the Gorges” which starts and returns to the Hannum Road parking lot, just outside Mayville.
Also, for those looking for a longer hike or bike ride, the new trail connects directly to the Chautauqua County Railroad near the new parking lot on Summerdale Road.
According to Jacob Bodway, president of the Western New York Mountain Bicycling Association, improvements to this section of the Overland Trail will provide trail users with a new perspective of the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest.
“Rather than going straight up and down ravines, the new “Gorge Loop” hugs the edge of the ravine, giving trail users incredible views of Chautauqua Creek and the valley below,” said Bodway. “This rerouting is also much more sustainable, as the water will naturally be diverted to the edge of the ravine, rather than the trail itself.”
Improvements to the Westside Overland Trail in the Chautauqua Gorge State Forest are part of the larger Chautauqua County Overland Trails Revitalization Project, which aims to add sustainability and modern trail design to overland trails. According to Thom Wright, co-owner of Trail Construction Associates, the trail construction company responsible for building the trails, drainage should figure prominently when designing a trail.
“The faster way to get water across and away from the trail, the better”, says Wright.
Bodway said sustainability is at the heart of its overland trail efforts, with work on exterior slopes, grade inversions, culverts and more efficient drainage adding another 30 years of life to the trails.
“The Overland Trails provide incredible recreational opportunities for Chautauqua County residents and tourists, and is a major reason my wife and I chose to return to this area,” he said. “To see the transformation of these magnificent trails is an experience that cannot be expressed in words.”
To fund this phase of the Overland Trail project, county lawmakers set aside $80,000 in ARPA funds, which were distributed through the Chautauqua County Partnership for Economic Growth. Additional funds were provided by local foundations and philanthropic organizations.