March 31, 2010

State Funds New Cayuga ‘Blueway’

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As local pedestrians, joggers and bikers anticipate the completion of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, boaters and rowers can now also look forward to increased lake access, thanks to a $45,000 grant from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund for the creation of “blueway trails” through Cayuga and Seneca Lakes, according to Edward Marx, the Tompkins County commissioner of planning and public works.

A blueway is a water-based trail system for boats, kayaks and canoes that consists of designated rest and docking areas as well as land-based attractions, according to the Genesee-Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council website.

Construction of the blueway trails on Cayuga and Seneca Lake, however, may not happen in the near future. Before any construction can begin, local planners from Seneca, Cayuga and Tompkins Counties must identify resources along the lakes and gaps in rest area locations, and must assess the viability of a blueway trail, Marx said.

According to Marx, a majority of the $45,000 grant will go toward assessing the lake and paying for an outside consultant to assist the planners from the three counties.

The total cost of the project with construction is around $90,000 and the counties may apply for additional grant funding if local planners identify other facilities and access points that are needed for construction at the end of their assessment, Marx said.

The construction of the proposed blueway on Cayuga and Seneca Lake would help to connect Tompkins County to the larger state canal system and tie in to the ongoing countywide initiative to increase access to the lakes and promote tourism, Marx said.

According to Fred Bonn, director of the Ithaca and Tompkins County convention and visitors bureau, the blueway would also be a good complement to land-based trails such as the Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway, the Cayuga Waterfront Trail and the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail.

“What we’re seeing is an opportunity to increase what [Tompkins County] has to offer to travelers and tourists,” Bonn said. “The topography of the lake makes access very difficult, but the marriage of land and water trails will help to [fix this problem].”

Overall, Marx said that he does not foresee the blueway trail causing many problems for private property owners along the lakes, including the Cornell Rowing Center. When asked about potential congestion issues, Bonn said over-usage would probably be beneficial rather than problematic, however local planners will take the issue into consideration during their assessment of the lakes.

“We are behind the project 110 percent and whatever we can do to make it a reality we certainly will do,” Bonn said.

Original Author: Samantha Willner