Group Seeks Online Petition Signatures

By Alicia Dziak

Do you have dreams of experiencing high adventure in roaring whitewater? A whitewater park not far from Ellicottville could fulfill them.

Springville Whitewater Park, a group interested in whitewater restoration, is proposing a park at Springville’s Scoby Dam Park that lies in Erie County, right near the border of Cattaraugus County, off Route 219.

The Scoby Dam, which currently holds back too much water, could fail in the event of a flood, is aging and in disrepair, and has to be removed. Additionally, the dam prevents ecological development of fish. Because of these concerns, the project has become a joint effort of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) and Erie County Parks.

The Scoby Dam is one of the state’s oldest hydroelectric facilities. The $6 million project will lower the height of the damn to 10 feet in height with a gated channel and it will have a passage of 600 feet in length.

The folks of Springville Whitewater Park hope to successfully introduce a betterment to the current project, which entails creating the whitewater park, where paddlers, standup paddle boarders, tubers and other whitewater aficionados can park and play at standing river wave features.

In addition to this recreational use, the park would serve as a multiple use river restoration project with structures created that make eddies and pools used for fishing, and fish habitat improvements. These types of parks also create riverbank vegetation restoration, prevent bank erosion, and offer access for activities like hiking and picnicking, as well as provide use for river ecology and conservation education, and a swift water rescue training site for rescue teams.

The Springville Whitewater Park has discussed their plan with the project managers at the USACE, NYS DEC and Erie County, and the betterment plan supports their goals for fish passage, dam safety, a lamprey invasive species barrier and ecosystem restoration.

Since the project is considered recreational, it cannot be federally funded, so the money for the project must come from the state or private sources. The Cattaraugus Creek was just recently added to the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, and park supporters hope that some of the $1 billion dollars that Governor Cuomo allotted to the Buffalo region can be used for the park.

Most recently, Springville Whitewater Park met with the Deputy Director of Erie County.

“Our goal was to convince them to sponsor the whitewater park project and help us with getting funding for the addition of a whitewater park to the project. They requested we provide them with an economic impact study and preliminary design, which we will need someone to conduct free, or come up with funding for it ourselves,” said Jeff Morreale, American Whitewater – Northeast Representative and executive director of Springville Whitewater Park.

The group is currently looking at options to get these done free of charge, or for other recommendations, and will raise funds if needed.

“We are still deciding on how much we need to raise, based on who will conduct the economic study and preliminary design,” explained Morreale. “Once we have determined that, we will start the fundraising, hopefully soon!”

Next up, Springville Whitewater Park will be meeting with representatives in Ellicottville.

“We are meeting with the Ellicottville Chamber and possibly Cattaraugus County, as they are interested in the project as a part of their new adventure tourism marketing and may help with the economic study, marketing, and possibly other funding,” Morreale said.

How can you help get the project off the ground?

First, consider signing the online petition at www.facebook.com/pages/Springville-Whitewater-Park. By collecting signatures, the county legislature will have to meet with the group.

“Hopefully we can convince (the legislature) to pass a resolution to include a betterment of a whitewater park to the project,” said Morreale.

For more information, visit www.springvillewhitewater.org. Follow the park on Twitter or “like” their Facebook page so you can stay in the loop, and contact the park if you would like to help.