In the early 1990s Bob King, Monroe County Executive, proposed that private sector organizations become involved in county activities. The Mendon Foundation was still in its infancy looking for projects to involve members. Mendon Foundation Directors Jeanne Loberg and Dick Dehm met with the Monroe County Parks Director requesting that the Lehigh Valley railway bed be given to the Mendon Foundation for development of a linear trail. Since, Monroe County obtained the land with federal funds, they were unable to donate it. However, a contract could be drawn up whereby the Mendon Foundation developed and maintained the trail for the county. In 1994 a contract was authorized under the leadership of Monroe County Executive Jack Doyle.
In 1995 the Foundation Directors and members actively started seeking grants to develop and complete the trail project. Ron Brand, owner of RLB Planning Group shared his knowledge and expertise to the task of writing the proposal to obtain federal I.S.T.E.A. funds. Since New York State received all the grant money that year, the proposal was rejected.
The Foundation's first official volunteer work party in October 1995 started rehabilitating the old Lehigh Valley railroad bed into a linear park. Chainsaws, weedwackers, bobcats, bulldozers and brush hogs were all used to clear brush, cut dead and fallen trees and create a walking trail. Areas were cleared and converted into parking areas to the entrance of the trail. Shade trees and shrubbery were contributed to enhance the professionally landscaped area. All this became a start for what was to become a major expansion project.
By 1997 a plan of action with committees to review and resolve various issues associated with the project and involvement of local organizations and individuals was implemented. These were the accomplishments thus far:
- Establishment of comprehensive, long-term implementation plans for developing the trail, which was approved and filed with the Monroe County Parks Department.
- Completion of a contract with the County of Monroe to develop and manage that portion of the trail situated within the Towns of Mendon and Rush.
- Completion of detailed engineering, construction, labor, materials and equipment cost estimates.
- Submission of a 150-page grant application for ISTEA funds.
- Establishment of a working relationship with Victor Hiking Trails, Inc. and volunteers from the Town of Rush to assist with trail development issues and maintenance.
- Establishment of a working relationship with the Honeoye Falls-Mendon Youth Baseball League to pursue joint development of a parking lot/picnic area in the Hamlet of Mendon adjacent to the Little League fields.
- Creation and publication of a concept plan for the redevelopment of that portion of the trail, which traverses the Hamlet of Mendon.
In 1998 three Eagle Scouts took on the responsibility for identifying projects to improve the Trail. They organized teams to clear another section of the trail by cutting back or removing overgrown trees, brush, and debris. Another team prepared the Trail Access Park for lawn maintenance by collecting and removing rocks; cutting back vegetation and general clean up. They also installed all the Monroe County Parks Department regulatory signs at intersections between the Trail and highways. The Scouts have continued their work with the Foundation today. They are still active in maintaining the trails, cutting the grass and general cleanup. These young people have become advocates for the Trail among their peers, so that it's respected and utilized in a productive safe manner.
The Mendon Foundation and Monroe County Parks Department applied for a Transportation Enhancement Program grant in 1999. They were successful in obtaining a $1,211,000. ISTEA grant in January 2000. Federal contribution was 69%; State was 20% and Mendon Foundation was 10%. The money was to be used for enhancement to the trail bed by using railroad cinders along the bed; adding recycled coal cinders donated by Eastman Kodak and topping it off with recycled asphalt from highway reconstruction projects in the region. This trail would be used for hiking, biking and roller blading. A grass trail running parallel to the cinder trail would be used for horseback riding. Additionally, the bridge over the Genesee River would be redecked and ramps constructed so that the Genesee Valley Greenway Trail would be connected to the Lehigh Valley Trail. Presently, cinders have been delivered to several sites along the trail. A preliminary design proposal, plans, specifications and estimates are currently being developed. Construction completion is targeted for fall, 2003.
The long-term goal is to have the Lehigh Valley Trail connect to the north-south Genesee Valley Greenway Trail system. This trail system would extend from Rochester, south to Pennsylvania. Mendonâ€™s portion of the trail connects to the Greenway Trail from Rochester Junction to Henrietta. Currently a collaborative effort with the Town of Henrietta has resulted in the Mendon Foundation and the Town of Henrietta seeking funds for the connection. The Town of Brighton is also working on a connection of trails running through the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology properties. Eventually this will connect with the Erie Canal Trail. Additionally, the Victor Hiking Trails and Town of Perinton are working collaboratively on connecting the trails between their towns.
In March 2001, two members of the Mendon Foundation Board of Directors were instrumental in organizing the Genesee Region Trails Coalition. It was incorporated in March 2002 and its mission is to :
- Provide responsible Trail usage as a healthy and inexpensive recreational opportunity for all seasons.
- Provide fund raising opportunities and assistance for member organizations, to support Trail development, improvement and maintenance.
- Encourage and support the continued development of the Trail network in the Genesee Region, seeking opportunities to interconnect the trails.
Genesee Region Trails Coalition is supported by its members and municipalities within a 400-mile trail system. As it succeed in these objectives, we can significantly enhance the recreational, social, economic and environmental quality of life in the Genesee Region.
Updates on the progress of the trail construction will appear in later editions of the web site. If you are interested in becoming a member, a volunteer or giving a donation please go to our membership and donations page.