TrailsBlog: Biking Around the Genesee Valley
If you are one of the fortunate few who were able to purchase a bike this year, or if you were already a bike owner, then you’re probably looking for new places to explore this summer. We have three Parks & Trails New York-tested summer adventures in the Genesee Valley region that will take you on shady off-road paths and through charming historic towns.
In early June, Parks & Trails New York staff had the pleasure of visiting three unique Trail Towns in the Genesee Valley region as part of our new Trail Towns initiative, supported by the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation. In partnership with Letchworth Gateway Villages, the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), and the Friends of the Genesee Valley Greenway, PTNY hosted three curated bike tours, in the Towns of Wheatland, Mount Morris, and Cuba .
By organizing local bike-arounds, PTNY is helping Trail Towns establish a cohesive bike culture, improve routing and wayfinding, and provide local leaders with a better understanding of how cycling visitors first experience a community. In addition to offering more insight into what a community does well in attracting cyclists and what it could improve upon, biking around a community is a lot of fun.
Village of Scottsville
At the northern edge of the Genesee Valley region, the Village of Scottsville (within the Town of Wheatland) welcomes you to drop by for a day filled with local history, art, and fishing along the Oatka Creek. The Town of Wheatland was once home to expansive hunting grounds of the Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Nation and later the source of major farming and milling production. With the completion of the Genesee Valley Canal in 1840, Scottsville served as a toll collection port on the canal. Those interested in learning more about the rich history of the area are encouraged to check out the Scottsville Free Library.
A good place to begin your tour of Scottsville is Canawaugus Park. Before venturing off into the village, head south along the newly resurfaced Genesee Valley Greenway to the Lehigh Valley Trail and Genesee River bridge overlook (approximately a five-mile round trip). On your way back, head north across the Oatka Creek “George” Bridge for a ride through beautiful canopies and stunning views of neighboring farmland. Cyclists can use the “boardwalk” on Canal Street to connect right to Main Street or continue north and take Route 253 east into the village. Either way, don’t miss the art installations peppered throughout the lawn of Wendell Castle’s home. In 1813, Abraham Hanford came to Scottsville and opened the first store on Main Street. Now Main Street is filled with eateries, coffee, and ice cream — all the services you’d be looking for after a day of exploration. End your day back along the Oatka Creek fishing, bird watching, or geo-caching.
The trail from Scottsville offers direct access to the Mount Morris entrance of Letchworth State Park. Mount Morris, brimming with small town charm, is home to the Mount Morris Dam, the largest concrete dam east of the Mississippi River and is the the birthplace of Francis Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance. Like Scottsville, Mount Morris is rich in history and has an active Historical Society dedicated to education and preservation of a diverse past. Take a walking tour to enjoy the community's historic architecture.
Cyclists heading south into Mount Morris will enjoy riding across the Genesee Valley Greenway bridge and entering a shady, lush forest filled with the calming sounds of nature. The Greenway intersects with Main Street and offers on-road connectivity with the downtown business district, which features antique shopping, authentic Puerto Rican food, and gluten-free baked goods. Cyclists can cruise down the shoulder of Route 36 or dismount and walk their bikes along well-maintained sidewalks. After exploring Mount Morris on foot, continue exploring the Genesee Valley Greenway, or consider cooling off in the local bowling alley (conveniently located where the Greenway intersects with Erie Street). If you’re planning to stay the night, make a reservation at the Allegiance Bed and Breakfast, which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped enslaved people make their way to Canada and to freedom; one of the openings to a tunnel is visible today in the basement of the home.
Cuba , New York is the place “where the Southern Tier and the Genesee Valley collide.” This community may be slightly off the beaten path (connected to the Greenway via on-road routes), and one of the southern-most stops along the Greenway, but it has a lot to offer in terms of community character, hospitality and renown. Located in Allegany County, Cuba traces its roots to dairy and cheese production, earning itself the title of "cheese center of the world" in the 1900s. From the parking lot located on Bull Street, enjoy a brief walk or slow ride along the Greenway where you can leave your Fitbit behind because mile markers guide your progress. Take a break at the gazebo that was recently painted as part of an I Love My Park Day activity.
The parking area is a short distance away from the Main Street business district - just look for a beautiful hummingbird mural. Ask any business owner at the Kopper Keg, Cuba Cheese Shoppe (I can personally vouch for the aged cheddar), Perfect Blend, or Palmer Opera House (home to the Cuba Cheese Museum - a must see) about the local attractions and you’ll be met with a smile and some great recommendations. Notably, cyclists should make their way through the village down South Street to the McKinney Stables, or more commonly known as the “Block Barn.” As the story goes, the Czar of Russia once sent some of his mares to Cuba to be bred so that the famous McKinney strain could become part of his stable. Enjoy the day-to-day in Cuba or plan your visit around one of the annual events such as the Cuba Garlic Festival or Dairy Days.
The bike around assessments are just one part of a larger initiative to help the communities in the Genesee Valley region capitalize on the growing outdoor recreation economy. For more information about the Trail Towns initiative visit our partner organization, Letchworth Gateway Villages. For more information on the Genesee Valley region and the unique Trail Towns located near the Genesee Valley Greenway, visit www.exploregeneseevalley.com and follow @exploregeneseevalley and @geneseevalleygreenway on Instagram.