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Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail Awarded $278,800 EPF Grant through NYS Parks

Deborah Stellrecht

Dec 21, 2023

Grant awarded to assess the historic, high trestle Cascade Bridge spanning Cattaraugus Creek between the Towns of Concord and Ashford, and determine a cost estimate for a new decking design.

(December 21, 2023) Orchard Park, N.Y.: In the latest round of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) Initiative awards, Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail Inc. has been awarded an Environmental Protection Fund - Parks, Preservation and Heritage Grant of $278,800 through NYS Parks. These funds, along with a grant from the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation with support from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, as well as ECRT funds, will be used to assess the historic, high trestle Cascade Bridge spanning Cattaraugus Creek between the Towns of Concord and Ashford, and determine a cost estimate for a new decking design incorporating features based on public and stakeholder input. ECRT will also design and construct a trail approaching from the north to the bridge. This key bridge will be a highlight of the ECRT and future Southern Tier Trail.

This award is the result of ECRT’s successful Cascade Bridge Planning and Trail Development Environmental Protection Fund grant application made to NYS through the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP). ECRT President Mary Brummer announced the award, stating, “This grant presents an exciting opportunity. The historic and architectural features of the Cascade Bridge provide a unique foundation on which to build. We look forward to working with the residents and elected officials in the Towns of Concord and Ashford to create a bridge design that our entire region will enjoy.”

NYS Senator Partick M. Gallivan (R-C, Elma) announced, “This funding represents an investment in our regional assets and will enhance the experience for residents and visitors alike. I applaud the municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, and others for working in collaboration to identify these projects, which will promote growth, tourism and economic development.”

“We are excited about the collaboration that has resulted in an amazing opportunity to reimagine the Cascade Bridge. We are thankful for the work of the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation to support this effort to create new opportunities for recreation, tourism, and economic development.  This historic bridge and beautiful natural setting will provide an amazing connection between Erie and Cattaraugus Counties along the Southern Tier Trail,” said JJ Tighe, Director of Parks & Trails for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.

From the 1850s through the 1870s, the Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad (BPRR) provided a direct route to and from the Pennsylvania coal mines. Passenger service began in the Buffalo division in 1883, and the railroad named some of its locomotives after the towns along its route; e.g. Ashford, Glenwood, Orchard Park, Springville, and West Valley. Passenger service became so popular, the railroad started offering multiple excursions to the Southern Tier. Cascade Park was known for its beautiful, natural setting. The bridge is 185 feet high and 780 feet long. Its 200-foot-high banks, caves, and waterfalls made it the perfect location for picnics and parties in the early 1900s.

Passenger service came to an end on the division in 1955. Freight service continued into the 1960s. BPRR officially ceased service in 2008 and applied to the federal Surface Transportation Board for the ability to railbank 27 miles of the corridor from Orchard Park to Ashford. In 2018, ECRT acquired a long-term rail-banking lease which calls for the creation of a multiuse recreational trail along this former rail corridor.

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