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nature & waterways

NY to promote winter tourism with free weekend of snowmobiling for visitors

Posted 23 January 2017 at 10:37 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Rich Kilger of Clarence rides into the Culvert in February 2016 as part of the “Covered Bridge Challenge” for snowmobilers. The Culvert is the only spot where motorists can ride under the historic Erie Canal.

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled a new marketing campaign designed to increase visitors and generate interest in New York State’s top winter tourism attractions and destinations.

The winter marketing campaign, which will include two new television advertisements, will run in media markets throughout the Northeast and promote New York as a world-class winter destination.

The Governor also announced New York State’s annual Free Snowmobiling Weekend for all out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers, will run from Friday, February 3, through Sunday, February 5, 2017.

“Increasing upstate tourism continues to be a top priority for our administration and with this ad campaign and free snowmobiling weekend, we are building on our past success, and leveraging our natural assets to bring more visitors to New York during the winter season,” Governor Cuomo said. “I encourage New Yorkers and tourists alike to visit these unparalleled winter destinations and snowmobile trails and take advantage of all New York has to offer.”

The winter marketing campaign features two 30-second I LOVE NEW YORK television advertisements showcasing the Empire State’s diverse recreational and family-friendly activities, while reminding viewers of the various attractions that make New York State a world-class winter destination. The ads are slated to run from January 20 through February 19 in major markets in New York and across the Northeast, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Connecticut, as well as Montreal and Toronto, Canada.

The first ad focuses on winter sports and recreation destinations, and informs viewers that New York has more ski mountains than anywhere else in the United States. It also promotes several Upstate attractions, including the Kissing Bridge and Canalside in Western New York; Plattekill Mountain in the Catskills; West, Gore and Whiteface mountains in the Adirondacks; and Allegany State Park in the Chautauqua-Allegheny region.

Winter travel is responsible for 21 percent of New York’s total tourism, accounting for more than $13 billion in direct visitor spending in 2015. More information on winter tourism in New York State is available at

Free Snowmobiling Weekend

Governor Cuomo also announced the state’s annual free snowmobiling weekend will be held in communities across New York on Friday, February 3, through Sunday, February 5, for all out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers. Registration fees will be waived for properly registered and insured out-of-state snowmobiling enthusiasts wishing to explore New York’s 10,500 miles of trails.

Currently, out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers are required to register their snowmobiles with New York State before hitting the State’s trails, stretching from the Hudson Valley to the North Country to Western New York. Snowmobile registration costs $100, but is decreased to $45 if the snowmobiler is a member of a local snowmobile club. This fee will be waived for out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers during the promotional weekend, provided they are properly registered and insured in another state or Canada.

During free snowmobiling weekend, town registration fees will also be waived for all in-state, out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers.

The state’s snowmobiling community generates total economic impact of approximately $868 million, according to a 2011 study by the State University at Potsdam. The promotional weekend will provide a boost to local small businesses and help to promote the state’s vast network of snowmobile trails, which are groomed and maintained by more than 230 local snowmobile clubs across the New York State.

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Orleans legislator wants to see canal communities develop waterfront plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 January 2017 at 10:07 pm
Photo by Tom Rivers: The Canal Basin in Medina is pictured in this photo from Oct. 28.

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Canal Basin in Medina is pictured in this photo from Oct. 28.

MEDINA – An Orleans County legislator wants the canal villages and towns to work together on a plan to better optimize the historic waterway.

Ken DeRoller met with Medina Village Board this week to discuss working on a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program for the canal communities.

Medina officials were open to teaming with the other towns and villages for a canal corridor plan in the county.

The county is currently working on a plan for about 25 miles of the Lake Ontario shoreline towns of Kendall, Carlton and Yates. The state approved a $40,000 grant to help with that effort.

DeRoller would like to see the canal villages and towns also pursue a plan that would bolster activities and attractions on the canal, whether for boating, biking, kayaking, people having picnics or doing other recreational activities.

The plan could also look at residential and commercial opportunities.

The county has added a planning professional who could assist with the project. DeRoller said he would like to hear from the other canal community leaders.

“This is just planting a seed,” he said after meeting with the Medina officials. “I would like to see a coordinated effort.”

For more on Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs, click here.

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Barge Canal officially named National Historic Landmark

Posted 11 January 2017 at 12:20 pm
File photo by Tom Rivers:  The tower of the Main Street lift bridge in Albion is pictured in this photo from March 2014.

File photo by Tom Rivers:  The tower of the Main Street lift bridge in Albion is pictured in this photo from March 2014. The lift bridge was built as part of the canal’s transitioning to the barge canal about a century ago.

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that after her year-long push, the New York State Barge Canal has been designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of Interior.

“The New York State Barge Canal has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of not only New York State but the entire country. It facilitated and shaped the course of settlement in the Northeast, Midwest and Great Plains, and established New York City as the nation’s premiere seaport and commercial center,” said Senator Gillibrand. “I was proud to fight for this designation because the canal is a symbolic reminder of New York’s excellence from the 1800s to this present day, honoring generations of our history and industry. Today, the New York State Barge Canal gets the recognition it truly deserves as it officially becomes a National Historic Landmark.”

In April, Senator Gillibrand first called on the National Park Service to designate of the NYS Canal as a National Historic Landmark. After the National Historic Landmarks Committee of the National Park System Advisory Board moved to approve the designation in November, Gillibrand renewed her pushed and urged the U.S. Department of the Interior to deliver the final approval needed to officially designate the NYS Canal as a National Historic Landmark.

The Beals Road bridge in Ridgeway is pictured during the winter. The bridge was built during the barge canal expansion.

The Beals Road bridge in Ridgeway is pictured during the winter. The bridge was built during the barge canal expansion.

Gillibrand was also instrumental in the New York Barge Canal being added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places in 2014, expanding opportunities for federal historic tax credits and other resources to support economic development initiatives near the Barge Canal, as well as positioning the Canal for designation as a National Historic Landmark.

The New York State’s Barge Canal system will celebrate its 192nd year of continuous operation next year. Also, the New York State Barge Canal will celebrate its Centennial in 2018.

The NYS Barge Canal extends through Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo and includes the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal, stretching 525 miles across New York State.

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Sportsmen ask county to allow rifles for big game hunting

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 December 2016 at 7:45 am
Photo by Tom Rivers: Neil Newton, a member of the Orleans County Sportsmen Federation and NYS Conservation Council, favors allowing rifles for hunting deer and bears.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Neil Newton, a member of the Orleans County Sportsmen Federation and NYS Conservation Council, favors allowing rifles for hunting deer and bears.

ALBION – Orleans County legislators are being asked by sportsmen to allow rifles for big game hunting – deer and bears.

County legislators were told by Sportsmen Club leaders on Wednesday that 41 out of 62 counties, including counties with more residents than Orleans, allow rifles for hunting.

Mike Elam, treasurer of the Orleans County Sportsmen Federation, presented the Legislature with a petition signed by about 500 people, supporting center-fire rifles for deer hunting.

“As the times change so does technology,” said Jeff Atwell, president of the Barre Sportsmen Club.

He believes rifles are safer than shotguns, because hunters with rifles tend to use only one bullet. With shotguns, Atwell said hunters will often take multiple shots and slugs can “bounce.”

Terry Williams of Carlton, a hunting instructor for 40 years, also favors rifles for hunting. “You’re not overshooting,” he told county legislators.

Sportsmen leaders said studies have shown that rifles are safe for hunting deer and bears.

“The facts clearly support the passage of this proposal and the history of safety across New York with counties with far greater populations than Orleans County fully support it,” according to written comments from Michael Van Durme, a retired chief conservation officer for Region 8 of the DEC.

Van Durme’s career as a conservation officer included seven years in Orleans. He now manages a consulting company that specializes in hunter and firearms safety. He testified in favor of rifles for deer hunting when Genesee, Livingston and Ontario counties discussed the issue – those counties ultimately voted in favor of it.

He said hunting is much safer now than in the 1960s, when there were 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters. Now it’s 4.3 incidents per 100,000, he said.

Rifles are currently used in Orleans County to hunt smaller animals, with no injuries to hunters or the public, Van Durme said.

“Center-fire rifles are used almost all year long in Orleans County to hunt woodchucks, foxes, crows and coyotes, and there has never been a case of a bullet traveling miles from their target and hurting anyone,” Van Durme said in his written comments.

Paul Kroth, conservation officer, says he will enforce whatever laws are on the books. Ultimately, he said hunters are responsible for their shots.

Paul Kroth, conservation officer, says he will enforce whatever laws are on the books. Ultimately, he said hunters are responsible for their shots.

Paul Kroth, a conservation officer in Orleans County, said whether or not rifles are allowed for deer hunting in Orleans, hunters still need to practice basic safety standards, such as identifying their target and knowing what is beyond it.

Some spots in Orleans aren’t appropriate for rifles, Kroth said, because roads and houses are too close by.

“Hunters, they’re still responsible for where their round goes,” Kroth said at a packed Legislature meeting. “There are a lot of smaller blocks where a rifle would not be appropriate.”

Hunters who use poor judgement and injure or even kill someone can face charges from reckless endangerment to manslaughter, Kroth said.

“We are going to enforce the law no matter which way you decide,” Kroth told the seven-member County Legislature.

David Callard, the Legislature chairman, said the group will continue to discuss the issue. He said the county doesn’t have the final say.

If the Legislature supports rifles for deer and bear hunting, Callard said local state legislators would then take the issue to Albany for a vote from the State Legislature.

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For some, snow means fun

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 December 2016 at 2:58 pm


Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Bobby Dysard, 12, of Albion leaps on a snowboard at Bullard Park this afternoon after the temperatures rose to the mid-30s and the wind died down.

Several kids were sledding at the park this afternoon.


Cole Moyle, 9, of Albion heads down the hill at Bullard.


Bryar Dysard, 9, joins his brother in enjoying some snow fun.


Justin Kania, 8, of Albion heads back up the sledding hill.


Anita Weese of Medina was at Mount Albion Cemetery with her English Labrador retrievers Zoe, left, and Hannah. Weese said it was a good afternoon for a walk at the historic cemetery.

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Orleans turns into snow-covered county

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 December 2016 at 10:08 am


Photos by Tom Rivers

It’s white-out conditions at times driving in Orleans County today, with snow and wind making it difficult to see. This picture shows Main Street in Albion looking north towards the lift bridge on the Erie Canal at about 8:45 a.m.

Three school districts – Albion, Holley and Medina – cancelled school today and two others – Lyndonville and Kendall – are on two-hour delays.


A wreath on the door of the First Presbyterian Church has been blasted with snow.

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Orleans, Niagara and Monroe counties until 5 a.m. on Friday. About 3-5 inches of snow is expected today with another 2 to 4 inches overnight. The snow, combined with 25 to 35 mile per hour winds and gusts up to 50 mph, will produce significant blowing and drifting snow.

“Strong winds and blowing snow will produce very difficult travel conditions at times with greatly reduced visibility and snow-covered roads,” the Weather Service said. “Wind chills dropping below zero will increase the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.”


An Albion Department of Public Works plow truck pushes snow off Main Street this morning.


A man with a snowblower crosses Main Street near the Holy Family Parish.

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Ox, key to pioneer power, makes appearance this weekend at Murray Christmas tree farm

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2016 at 7:39 pm


Photos by Tom Rivers

MURRAY – Arden, a male ox, was at Jim Ritchie’s Christmas tree farm at the corner of Route 104 and Norway Road today.

Arden, an Irish dexter ox, will be back at the farm on Sunday hauling Christmas trees.


The ox is owned by Dawn Meier, right, of Tuthill Road in Albion. Meier and her daughter Amie Kenneally are pictured with Arden this afternoon.

Meier wanted the public to see the ox. She said oxen were critical for pioneers, clearing land about 200 years ago. They also provided much-needed power for settling the state and creating the 363-mile-long Erie Canal, which opened in 1825.


Arden gives Brooklyn Drennen a ride in the snow.

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IJC moving ahead with controversial plan for Lake Ontario water levels

Staff Reports Posted 8 December 2016 at 2:25 pm
File photo by Tom Rivers: The lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park in Barker is pictured in this photo when the sun was setting in early August.

File photo by Tom Rivers: The lighthouse at Golden Hill State Park in Barker is pictured in this photo when the sun was setting in early August.

A plan for regulating water levels at Lake Ontario is going forward despite outcries from many elected officials along the south shore of the lake, who fear water levels will have bigger swings, leading to erosion and threatening tourism industries.

Commissioners of the International Joint Commission today signed an updated order of approval regulating water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The updated order makes it possible for the IJC to approve Plan 2014, a new regulation plan for determining the flows through the Moses-Saunders Dam located on the St. Lawrence River between Cornwall, Ontario and Massena, NY. The updated order and plan replace a system of regulating flows developed in the 1950s.

“Plan 2014 is a modern plan for managing water levels and flows that will restore the health and diversity of coastal wetlands, perform better under changing climate conditions and continue to protect against extreme high and low water levels,” US Section Chair Lana Pollack said in a news release.

‘As long as I am a Member of Congress, I will fight to block any and all funding paths this plan needs to be implemented.’ – Congressman Chris Collins

Congressman Chris Collins, R-Clarence, is among the many elected officials who have been opposing the plan.

“As long as I am a Member of Congress, I will fight to block any and all funding paths this plan needs to be implemented,” Collins said in a statement today. “Additionally, the incoming Republican Administration will know from Day One how important it is to eliminate Plan 2014 once and for all.”

Collins vowed to “do everything in my power to protect the taxpayers, homeowners and small businesses along the Lake Ontario shoreline that are set to be devastated by this bureaucratic disaster.”

Plan 2014 will continue to protect shoreline property and will retain, essentially unchanged, the environmental conditions and coastal protections on the lower St. Lawrence River, below the Moses-Saunders Dam, the IJC stated today.

The plan will improve ecosystem health and diversity on Lake Ontario and the upper St. Lawrence River and provide net economic benefits, according to the IJC.

The plan will foster conditions needed to restore 64,000 acres of coastal wetlands and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The plan will also frequently extend the recreational boating season, better maintain system-wide levels for navigation and increase hydropower production, the IJC said.

Plan 2014 is the result of more than 16 years of scientific study, public engagement and governmental review.

During the five-year Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Study (2000-2006), technical experts and stakeholders together built evaluation models and tested hundreds of alternatives, with public participation throughout the process. The IJC continued to optimize alternatives developed during the study and held public meetings in 2012 and public hearings in 2013 before proposing Plan 2014 to the two federal governments.

“We are pleased that Plan 2014 will bring system-wide improvements, with consideration of ecosystem health and recreational boating along with shoreline communities, commercial navigation and  hydropower production,” said Canadian Section Chair Gordon Walker.

The IJC plans to implement the plan starting in January 2017.

For more information on the IJC, click here.

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Fog rolls in on Thanksgiving

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2016 at 7:29 pm


Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans County was blanketed in fog this afternoon. This photo is looking north on Transit Road in Albion near the intersection with Route 31.


A tractor is pictured in a field along Fetcher Chapel Road in Shelby.


Some trees stand out in the fog along Route 63 in Shelby by the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.


This row of trees is shown on the refuge in Shelby.


Some livestock were also out on Fletcher Chapel Road in Shelby.


The East Shelby Community Bible Church is still a landmark in the fog on East Shelby Road in Shelby.


This barn is located along West Countyhouse Road in Albion near the Shelby border.

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Canal closes on Sunday after 192nd season

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 November 2016 at 3:09 pm


Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Tugboats and tenders are lined up on the Erie Canal in Albion today, the second to last day of the 192nd navigational season on the historic waterway.

The canal closes for the season at 5 p.m. on Sunday. All recreational vessels must exit the canal system before 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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