By Kellen M Quigley
Come this winter, snowmobilers will now be able to ride their sleds through the village of Springville on the Pop Warner Rail Trail after action from the village board this week.
At its regular Monday meeting, following an hour-long public hearing on the matter, the Board of Trustees approved a local law allowing snowmobiles on the 1.7-mile rail trail in the village.
“I think it’s a good idea. The regional approach to this trail and snowmobile use is good for Springville,” said Mayor Bill Krebs. “I think it’s certainly possible to design the trail and work closely with the club that designs the trail to make it a safe, positive experience for everyone.”
The Pop Warner trail is part of a 27-mile rail corridor owned by the Buffalo Pittsburgh Railroad and leased to the Erie Cattaraugus Rail Trail (ECRT) group for construction of a multi-use trail through southern Erie County and into northern Cattaraugus County.
Paul Cramer, a board member for ECRT, said the Western New York Snowmobile Club of Boston approached them in May about opening the trial for snowmobile use.
Cramer said the snowmobile season is relatively short, with recent winters only allowing for about 15 to 25 days of use during a three-month period. However, when snowmobilers are on the trail, he said they are patrons for local businesses and help maintain the trail.
“The clubs will build and fix bridges and culverts and clear downed trees in the winter,” he said.
Several Springville residents in attendance expressed their concerns with snowmobiles on the Pop Warner trail, including the noise in the village and running the sleds through residents’ yards and driveways. Some also said allowing snowmobiles could open the floodgates for other motor vehicles.
“I know it’s only a few weeks a year, but then that opens it up people to come flying through there in the spring and all summer long,” one resident said. “I don’t know why they need to come into town and make a bunch of noise.”
Another resident had concerns about how the snowmobilers would access the trail, mentioning that they’d have to use village streets and sidewalks.
“It’s a 1.7-mile drag strip and there’s nobody enforcing the any of the motor vehicles on there now,” he added.
A village resident who snowmobiles said allowing sleds on the trial would be good for the village for convenience to snowmobilers who live in Springville.
“I would love to just get on there and zip down to Tim Hortons or the gym or connect to the main trail,” she said. “People will be less likely to speed of the trail because they won’t be running from the police out of fear of getting caught.”
Several members from the snowmobile clubs also spoke in favor of the trail. One member from West Valley said the clubs post speed limits, caution signs and other traffic signs to help with safety on the trail. He said they can’t control non-winter activities, but they can help the issues in the winter.
A member of the Boston club said the Sheriff’s Department and State Police have patrols out watching the trails during the winter, some of whom are on sleds.
A resident of the village of Cattaraugus who helped develop the Pat McGee trail between Cattaraugus and Salamanca said the trail has had a great partnership with the snowmobile clubs in Cattaraugus County.
“After having the experience for several years with them, I gave them a permanent easement on the trail, and in exchange I could come to them periodically for funds or if there was a washout on the trial,” he said. “That has been a fantastic relationship all around.”
Along with concerns and comments about the snowmobile use, a common theme from several who spoke was use of the trail not during the winter, whether by pedestrians and volunteers helping maintain it or people on dirt bikes of four wheelers on it illegally.
“I think we need a little bit more planning of what we need to do when the sleds are put away for the winter and we’re dealing with the other issues like the residents have mentioned,” said board member Nils Wikman, who voted against the local law. “I think we’re a little premature in allowing them before mitigating the problems that come along with it.”
Board member Alan Chamberlain said before the village turned it into a useable multi-use trail, there was lots of vandalism and trouble on the trial. But since then, the trouble has cut down and allowing the snowmobiles could help that further.
“We look at the whole economic impact and what this does for bringing outsiders into our community … it builds an asset for our community,” he added.
Board member Elise Rose said with all the information shared during the public hearing, she hoped some of the concerns were addressed to make people more comfortable. “Obviously, the biggest concern isn’t necessarily the snowmobiles.”
Krebs said there are plenty of rural parks and attractions in the area that snowmobilers ride through and Springville could be a part of that.
“What a destination we could be, and it wouldn’t just make business better, but make Springville a better place to live,” he said. “The snowmobiles are a big part of that equation… Why not us? We get 180 inches of snow.”