By Rich Place

A letter from the Internal Revenue Service is not always welcomed by many, but a letter recently received by board members with the Ellicottville-Great Valley (EVGV) Trail was a cause of celebration.

As the board looks to begin making visual progress on the proposed trail this year, a letter received from the IRS in mid-April informed them they are officially a 501(c)(3) organization exempt from federal income tax.

The letter was one piece of news shared at the recent meeting of the trail’s board, which is also deep into the planning stages of its second annual Ham and Turkey Raffle Party following the success of the inaugural event last year. The event is set for 1 p.m. June 10 at the Ellicottville American Legion Post on Maples Road.

The proceeds from the raffle will go toward the EVGV Trail, with a portion of the proceeds also benefiting the Nannen Arboretum. The trail committee last autumn erected its first EVGV trailhead at the Nannen Arboretum and Ellicottville Town Center site on Fillmore Avenue.

The trailhead is a sign that progress is moving forward on constructing the first section of the trail, which will begin at the arboretum and continue east toward Tim Hortons, and officials hope the work will begin soon.

Clearing the first section of the trail needed a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for wetlands work, which was received in the autumn. Favorable weather in February almost allowed for some clearing to begin until winter weather returned and lingered into April.

“At the end of February, we went out and looked at it,” said Mark Alianello of MDA Consulting Engineers. “We were ready (and said) ‘we could get started on this in another week or so.’ Then we got January weather for another six weeks.”

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has specific guidelines that must be followed for the protection of northern long-eared bats, and those guidelines change from April 1 to Oct. 31.

Alianello said follow-up is needed to determine what steps trail officials need to take to begin clearing the first section of the trail during this time period. He said it would be beneficial to at least begin getting part of the trail cleared before the ham and turkey raffle in June.

Admission tickets for the ham and turkey raffle are $20 and admits one person and a guest to the event. Complementary draft beer, soft drinks and pizza are included. To purchase tickets for admission and cash prizes, contact MDA Engineers, 3 Bristol Lane in Ellicottville or by phone at (716) 699-4650. Tickets are also available from trail and arboretum members.

The EVGV Trail is a proposed 15-mile network of multi-use trails in the Ellicottville and Great Valley areas.