OLEAN, NY—The secret to the success of the Allegheny River Public Access and Recreation Plan will be community involvement, according to municipal and Cattaraugus County leaders.

Wednesday, the leaders met with Matt Ingalls, principle planner and urban designer for Ingalls Planning & Design, and Mary Rowlands, senior project manager for Highland Planning, to begin the estimated year-long process of planning exact changes to 30 miles of the river corridor.

Ingalls and Rowlands, both based in the Rochester area, and the approximately 20 community leaders began the two-hour meeting by outlining the purpose of the meeting — to determine where the process is now, where the community would like it to go, and what needs to be done.

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“It’s a process,” Ingalls said. “We just have to be patient.”

According to Ingalls, whose company will act as the primary contact for the community, the main goal, through both short-term and long-term projects, will be to improve river access for recreation from Portville to Salamanca.

These projects include making the river banks safer for people using the trails and the river for recreation, connecting pre-existing riverside trails, and building more user-friendly trails, added Bob Fischer, a planning board member from Portville.

In order to see action on any of the proposed plans, the first step is to draft a public participation plan, said Rowlands.  

“We want to keep the public involved along the way,” she said, adding she has set the following five goals for her draft: inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower.

To accomplish these goals, Rowlands plans to hold at least three community workshops between now and summer 2017 where community members can give feedback, take surveys and suggest ideas to improve the recreation and around the river, she said. Exact dates for the workshops have yet to be determined.

She added these meetings might be scheduled to piggyback on already planned community events to increase public participation.

Ingalls and Rowlands asked the leaders, who represent towns and villages such as Hinsdale, Carrollton, Portville, Olean and Allegany, some benefits and problems the physical riverside land contained.

Scenery, small businesses and wildlife made the list of benefits, while concerns over littering, conflicts with private property owners and universal access to the river made the list of problems.

According to Ingalls, after the public participation plan has been drafted, another meeting will be held to discuss more concrete steps. He estimated the meeting will take place during July.

For more information or to be added to the email update list from Ingalls and Rowlands, contact Mary George, program coordinator for the City of Olean, at mgeorge@cityofolean.org.