CANANDAIGUA, NY – According to US Senator Charles E. Schumer, encouraging outdoor recreation in the Finger Lakes is also a way to support Main Street businesses — particularly in rural inner cities — and accelerate the region’s economic recovery .
Schumer visited Canandaigua on Thursday and unveiled its new Rural Outdoor Investment Act, which is capitalizing on the newfound demand for outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This creates a unique opportunity for the federal government to invest in local economies, such as small rural areas of the Finger Lakes, by investing in their outdoor natural resources to create jobs and new economic growth, Schumer said in a statement.
That’s why Schumer said it’s worth the investment. In the Finger Lakes, pre-pandemic visitors spent over $152 million on recreation, contributing to the region’s $3.3 billion tourism industry, which generates over $990 million in direct labor income for over 41,000 jobs generated.
“Our water bodies and natural landscape 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,” Schumer said.
How it works
The legislation focuses on three key areas to encourage the growth of the outdoor recreation economy in places like the Finger Lakes.
Outdoor recreation infrastructure could receive $150 million over five years for public works through the Economic Development Administration for assets such as boat ramps, hiking trails, campgrounds and other outdoor facilities.
Schumer also highlighted the US Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives program, which was funded through the bipartisan infrastructure bill and is expected to provide New York with an estimated $289 million over five years to implement a competitive grant program. This could help fund hiking trails, sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways, and strengthen downtown areas by allowing tourists and residents to flow more easily between areas and enjoy outdoor recreation.
In addition, the law would provide planning support to communities looking to expand outdoor recreational opportunities. To that end, the ROI Act provides $25 million over five years in planning grants for communities to create recreational economic plans that optimize their natural opportunities, including marketing, branding, business development, fundraising and tourism management. In addition, the legislation provides $12.5 million over five years for university partnerships to encourage research, education and technical support for local stakeholders and businesses to better take advantage of opportunities in the outdoor recreation economy.
Finally, in addition to hotels, restaurants and retail outlets needed to support the direct and indirect industries essential to the outdoor economy, the law would provide business support to recreational businesses such as outdoor gear and equipment rentals, shuttles, Guides and outfitters provide -based communities more sustainable. The ROI Act directly invests $62.5 million over five years in the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities program administered by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for rural development in coordination with the Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency to Provide grants for planning and provision Revitalization of Main Street through outdoor recreation.
During his visit, Schumer highlighted several “wish list” developments that are long-standing priorities for the community that could benefit and move forward with the dollars created by Schumer’s ROI Act.
— Modernization of Ontario County parks, including Deep Run Beach Park on Canandaigua Lake, to add new accessibility improvements, walkways, parking lots and improvements for year-round and winter use. Also, Tree Mills Park in Phelps could see new access trails through this 26-acre park along the Canandaigua Lake Outlet, which is a popular destination for sport fishermen and during trout season.
— Enhance Ontario Pathways Rail-to-Trails by expanding and building a trail in the former Peanut Line rail corridor from Canandaigua west through East Bloomfield and West Bloomfield. This would expand the current 23-mile trail system and fulfill a long-held desire to develop a west connection for year-round use, including snowmobiling. The towns and City of Victor also jointly own Boughton Park which is in need of dam rehabilitation, investment in toilet and docking facilities and electrical upgrades.
— Creation of a new urban public beach on Lake Seneca in the city of Geneva. The creation of a new municipal beach is called for in the city’s multi-year lakefront improvement plan. In addition to the beach, the projects would include a new promenade and pedestrian bridge, as well as walking and cycling paths.
— Construction of a new temporary boat dock along the city of Canandaigua’s waterfront that would provide new docking for boats and watercraft and access points along the Canandaigua coast to encourage eco-tourism and business development. Boat traffic would also support new restaurant, retail and leisure businesses along the waterfront business park.
— Strengthening access to Lake Honeoye to support the hamlet of Honeoye, which requires infrastructure investments to make its boardwalk accessible, provide cycle and pedestrian links from the park to the hamlet, and capitalize on growth opportunities for local businesses in the hamlet.
— Job creation and business expansion in the Finger Lakes outdoor recreation economy. Recently, the Finger Lakes Visitors Connection released its five-year strategic plan to expand the region’s tourism economy, and a key goal of the plan is to capitalize on the demand for outdoor recreation, including by filling gaps in outdoor recreation support services and businesses free economy.
Jack Marren, chair of the Ontario County Board of Supervisors, said that Victor and Ontario County are seeing an increase in the use of parks, trails and golf courses in the area, and he is encouraged by Schumer’s goal of providing the necessary funds to do so to preserve and enhance these outdoor recreation areas.
“Not only will this continue the momentum started with the pandemic, but it will also have a major impact on local businesses by bringing more people into the area,” said Marren, who is also the City of Victor Supervisor.
Valerie Knoblauch, President and CEO of Finger Lakes Visitors Connection, said this is a welcome opportunity to stimulate economic development, sustainable growth and lifestyle benefits for visitors and residents.
“We call our Finger Lakes ‘Nature’s Health Club,'” Knoblauch said. “This type of investment will fill gaps, stimulate investment, promote well-being and provide another tool to meet the demand and need for active outdoor engagement.”