By Rick Miller
With widespread “sheltering” in homes due to COVID-19 concerns across Cattaraugus County, many have turned to walking, biking and running along area hiking trails.
Rick LeFeber, executive director and president of the Cattaraugus Local Development Corp., said usage is up on all sections of the Pat McGee Trail, the 14.4-mile trail along the former railroad bed between Salamanca and Cattaraugus during the coronavirus shutdown.
“People need something positive right now,” LeFeber said in an interview earlier in late March. When he was out on the trail earlier in March, he found more people than usual.
“Over the weekend, I noticed more people on the trail than usual at this time of year,” he said.
“The trail is people-friendly, dog-friendly, bike-friendly, horse-friendly and all-round people-friendly,” said LeFeber. When there’s snow, it’s a great snowmobile trail too.
“It’s an opportunity for people to get out in nature and keep their social distance,” LeFeber said of the trail, with its central hub in the village of Little Valley.
“A lot of people use the Little Valley trailhead for parking, then walk north or south on the trail,” LeFeber said. Salamanca’s trail head on Central Avenue gets spotty use and the Cattaraugus section at County Road 6 also gets decent use.
“Different people have their favorite sections,” LeFeber said.
“It’s amazing how many local people use the trail that I didn’t realize were walkers,” he said. “You get out and see nature. People have seen osprey, coyotes and bear on the trail.
Geocaching, leaving hidden containers with messages and trinkets and posting the GIS location on the internet has also put the Pat McGee Trail on the map, LeFeber said. “Someone put 21 geocaches on the trail. That brought in a lot of new visitors.”
A group of bikers from Hamburg and Orchard Park have also used the trail.
“For people who are getting stir crazy or depressed from being at home during this coronavirus crisis, we invite them to come out and walk along the trail,” Lefeber said.
Other trails including the Allegheny River Valley Trail in Olean and Allegany, the old Pennsy Railroad Trail in Salamanca and Red House Hiking and Biking Trail in Allegany State Park are all seeing increased use during the coronavirus shutdown, LeFeber said.
Just keep your social distance.