By Jann Wiswall

The Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway (WNYSSB) received the state legislature’s approval to expand into Cattaraugus County.

Currently, the byway runs through the Towns of Aurora, Boston, Colden, Concord, East Aurora, Orchard Park and Springville. Another 37 miles of roadway will be added to the existing byway corridor along portions of Route 219, State Route 240 and State Route 242 within the Towns of Ashford and Ellicottville and the Village of Ellicottville.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young (R,C,I– Olean) and Assemblyman Joseph Giglio (R,C,I-Gowanda), passed the state legislature last week.

“Expansion of the Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway into Cattaraugus County will help showcase the communities’ wonderful history, natural beauty, cultural and recreational opportunities, and boost our local economy through increased tourism,” Senator Young said. “The new section of the byway will soon offer another positive way to highlight our region to residents across the state and beyond, showcasing the wonderful towns and villages along the route.”

“Any step, small or large, that we can take to enhance and promote the tourism and travel industry in Cattaraugus County and Western New York is certainly a welcomed opportunity,” said Assemblyman Giglio. “I’m proud to have worked with Senator Young, the WNYSSB Coalition and the Department of Transportation’s Scenic Byway Advisory Board to develop legislation and extend the byway into my district. The magnificent foothills of the Allegheny Mountains along the byway route in Cattaraugus County will attract additional visitors and help create economic opportunities.”

WNYSSB President Robert Lennartz, who led the expansion effort, noted that “the Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway… [will] unite Erie and Cattaraugus Counties and numerous towns and villages, into a regional attraction for tourists and the citizens of the area.”

According to Senator Young’s office, municipalities along the route will use public-private partnerships between citizens, businesses and public officials to promote sporting competitions, artistic festivals and other events and attractions in the area. The Scenic Byway has already been successful in promoting these events across Southern Erie County, boosting tourism there.

The Senator’s office cited the importance of tourism to Cattaraugus County, where tourists and travelers spent some $208 million in 2013 and generated more than $14 million in taxes, supporting approximately 5,000 local jobs.

The WNYSSB worked hard in recent years to secure “Resolutions in Support” from each of the towns and villages and, eventually, the county. Town and Village of Ellicottville officials were immediately supportive of the Byway and, with the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce and WNYSSB, were instrumental in getting the measure through the county legislature.

“We really appreciate the legislators whose efforts got it through committees and onto the floor for a vote,” said Town of Ellicottville Supervisor John Burrell.

“The byway will be great for our community and the entire county,” added Village Mayor Charles Coolidge, who noted the importance of tourism to the economic health and growth of the region.

For more information, visit wnyssb.org.