CANANDAIGUA — During the two years of the pandemic, outdoor recreation and tourism boomed in upstate New York, particularly in the Finger Lakes area.
However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said Thursday that federal support for the phenomenon is stagnant.
Schumer spoke at the Kershaw Park Pavilion at the north end of Canandaigua Lake. He was in Ontario County to announce the introduction of the Rural Outdoor Investment Act, which he is co-sponsoring with Senator Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
On a stormy day with choppy water in the background, Schumer, wearing a down jacket, said ROIA could provide more than $350 million to the region to help boost outdoor recreation in the Finger Lakes and the region’s economic recovery accelerate.
“The pandemic has spurred newfound demand for outdoor recreation, and this creates a unique opportunity for the federal government to invest in local economies like those in small, rural areas of the Finger Lakes by investing in their natural outdoor resources to create jobs and new economic growth. ‘ Schumer said. “Our water and natural landscapes are the beating heart of the Finger Lakes, and the federal government should recognize that investing in outdoor recreation invests in the future of these rural and scenic communities.”
He added that ROIA “can spur Finger Lakes’ economic recovery, help local businesses grow, and breathe new life into our high streets.”
Schumer told a gathering of about 50 elected officials, government leaders, and business and tourism officials that the ROIA has three core areas for federal funding:
• Outdoor recreation infrastructure such as boat ramps, hiking trails, campgrounds, sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways.
• Outdoor recreation infrastructure planning and things like marketing, branding, business development, fundraising, tourism management, and partnerships with educational institutions like Finger Lakes Community College.
• Support for recreational businesses such as outdoor gear and equipment rentals, shuttles, tour guides and outfitters, hotels, restaurants and retail.
Schumer identified several “wish list” projects that could be advanced with ROIA funding. One of them was the creation of a new municipal beach on Lake Seneca in the city of Geneva. A new promenade, pedestrian bridge, and hiking and biking trails could also be built in this area, he said.
• Upgraded Ontario County parks, including Deep Run Beach Park on Canandaigua Lake, with the addition of new handicap-accessible upgrades, sidewalks, parking lots and improvements for year-round and winter use.
• At Tree Mills Park in Phelps, new hiking trails could be added to the 65-acre park along the Canandaigua Outlet, a popular destination for sport fishermen during trout season.
• Upgrade Ontario Pathways to trails by extending and building a trail in the former Peanut Line rail corridor from Canandaigua West through East and West Bloomfield. This would expand the current 23-mile trail system and allow for increased use of snowmobiles.
• Boughton Park, owned by several towns including Victor, is in need of dam rehabilitation, investment in toilets and docking facilities and electrical upgrades.
• Construction of a new temporary boat dock along the waterfront of the city of Canandaigua. Increased boat traffic could spur new restaurants, retail outlets and leisure businesses along the coastal commercial zone. “New York is #3 nationally in terms of the number of pleasure boats, behind only Florida and Michigan,” Schumer noted.
• Strengthening access to Honeoye Lake to make the boardwalk accessible and to provide cycling and walking links from the park to the hamlet.
Schumer said the ROIA could also support the region’s existing ecosystem for outdoor recreation, which includes such key destinations as Canandaigua Sailboard, Bristol Mountain Ski Resort, Sonnenberg Gardens and the Finger Lakes Wine Trails.
Among those attending Thursday’s event were Mayor of Geneva Steve Valentino Mayor of Canandaigua Bob Palumbo Ontario District Manager Chris DeBolt President and CEO of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection Valerie Knoblauch City Manager of Canandaigua John Goodwin, Canandaigua City Manager, Jared Simpson, Geneva Business Improvement Michael Mills, District Executive Director, David Hutchins, Executive Director of Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Park, Dan Fuller, President and GM of Bristol Mountain, and Robert Nye, President of the Finger Lakes Community College.
DeBolt brought his son Carter with him. Schumer was quick to point out that Carter’s tie appropriately had a fish on it.
Schumer said he hopes ROIA will be on President Joe Biden’s desk by the fall.