The Story Behind the Genesee Blueway Map

This article is part of Genesee RiverWatch’s 2020 Year-End Appeal series – telling the stories behind our significant accomplishments.

In this installment, we take you “behind the scenes” to describe the origin and development of the newly launched Genesee River Blueway Map and the additional resources arising from this project – an interactive version of the map, a Canoe/Kayak Access Improvement Plan and the physical signage being placed at access points along the river to guide boaters, fishermen and hikers.

In 2004, the Rochester chapter of the Sierra Club published the first-ever recreational boating map of the Genesee from Gold, Pennsylvania, to Lake Ontario, showing the locations of access points and providing brief descriptions of each.  The map was originally available only in hardcopy form until it was added to the Genesee RiverWatch website in 2015.  Unfortunately, over the years a number of the access points had become unsafe or were closed by private owners and the map was in dire need of updating.

Our 2017 Genesee River Basin Summit focused on “River Access & Recreational Activities”.  Ninety attendees heard 20 presentations on a wide variety of subjects.  At the end, one key conference recommendation was to “provide maps with information (in paper and app form) about access, tourism opportunities, availability of drinking water and restrooms, historical information, fishing, cell coverage, camping and local businesses”.

The 2018 cycle of NOAA Sea Grant funding provided an opportunity for Genesee RiverWatch to respond to this recommendation.  In April, we submitted a $25K proposal to solicit public input, develop and publish a map, and install signage at access sites along the river.  In September we were awarded the grant and a final contract was received in May 2019.

While awaiting final approval, RiverWatch partnered with Genesee River Wilds and the Genesee Valley Conservancy – experts on the upper and middle sections of the river.  Together we held a series of public meetings in Rochester, Geneseo, and Belfast.  Attendees told us which access sites were good, which needed improvement, where new sites were needed, and what amenities would be particularly useful.  They also made recommendations on map design and content.

While not required by the grant, it quickly became apparent that a web-based interactive map would be an essential part of this project.  Having an interactive version allows for site photos, detailed site descriptions, and other information that cannot be printed on a physical document.  Equally important, the web-based map can be updated with new information immediately and users can print detailed segments of the river, customized for each trip.

The new map, in both physical and electronic form, was released in late August on the  Genesee RiverWatch website.

Simultaneously, we began installing signage at access points along the river.  Each site has three sets of signs.  One set, placed near the parking area shows the name of the site, its location in “river miles” from the Pennsylvania headwaters, a “QR” code linking to the on-line map, and a holder containing printed copies of the map.  A second set, placed at the launch site, shows the access point name, its location in river miles, and the distance to the next site downstream.  Finally, a sign set placed upstream on the riverbank tells paddlers that they are approaching a takeout point, the site name and mileage, and the distance to the next takeout point.

Also included in the grant proposal and published on the RiverWatch website is the Genesee River Main Stem Canoe/Kayak Access Improvement Plan.  This plan is designed to be a guide for further development of the Genesee’s chain of access sites.  It proposes six new sites at critical points and eight sites that need varying degrees of improvement to make them safe and fully usable.  Each of these proposed projects is detailed and prioritized so that they can be readily matched with new funding as it becomes available.

While NOAA’s Sea Grant funded the work involved in assembling public comments, developing the interactive map and printing the physical maps and signs, the initial work of holding the Genesee River Basin Summit, researching grant opportunities, and preparing the grant proposal was made possible by the generosity of our Supporters.  Help us continue this work as well as our streambank stabilization, public outreach, and education initiatives in 2021.  Please consider investing $100, $250 – or an amount of your choosing – in Genesee RiverWatch as a part of your year-end giving plan.

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