The Covid-19 pandemic has been no friend to traditional summertime activities in Western New York.
You can't spend the day at an amusement park or an afternoon at a movie theater or an evening at a concert.
One of the only things you can do is head to the park. In the case of Allegany State Park, one of the region's most popular outdoor destinations, people are still coming. Soon, they will have another reason.
Bikers and hikers will get their first crack at a $1.9 million lakeside recreation trail at the park this fall. The 1.6-mile stretch spans four bridges and represents the first phase of the 5.2-mile pathway winding through woodlands and fields along ASP Route 3 and Quaker Lake, said Jacob Taylor, Allegany park manager.
A construction date has not yet been determined for the second phase that will add 3.6 miles and extend the trail from the Quaker General Store to Quaker Lake Beach, said Taylor.
The trail will enhance safety for visitors as they navigate the Quaker Run area which straddles a parkway and offers a wealth of amenities including a beach, general store and spacious rustic and glam cabins.
“I would say the bike path is one of the best improvements, just from a safety standpoint, because that road gets pretty busy, and there are young kids walking and riding bikes back and forth to the store with cars on the road. There’s not a lot of space [on the road],” said Michael Weaver, 31, a lifelong camper.
Allegany State Park, spanning 100 square miles in Cattaraugus County, is west of Salamanca and north of the Allegheny National Forest. The park is divided into two sections, Red House and Quaker Run. It will mark 100 years of service in June 2021.
The pandemic has translated to a decrease in attendance, according to data released by the park. July’s daily attendance averaged 7,329 visitors compared to 8,825 in 2019, said Taylor.
In 2019, Allegany recorded more than 1.5 million visitors, putting the park in the top 10 among state parks in New York, said Taylor.
Covid-19 delayed the start of overnight camping at Allegany until June 1. It also led to a two-day reduction in weekly rentals, from seven nights to five, during the peak season from June 20 to Aug. 23, said Taylor. That change allows for adequate sanitization in cabins and cottages, he said.
Other Covid related modifications include: Closure of group camps (multiple cabins for organizations and clubs) through the month of August; 50% reduction in beach parking; beach signs outlining a 10-foot minimum distance between blankets; and social distancing and face covering guidelines posted on hiking trails.
The Quaker Run recreational trail is the latest in a series of improvements during the past five years at the park.
The rehabilitation of Redhouse Sawmill continues progress as volunteers gear up for a soft opening next June to mark the park’s centennial, said Paul Crawford, president of Friends of Allegany State Park.
This year, the group received a $10,399 grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the advocacy group Parks & Trails New York. The funding will help the group install interpretive kiosks, a video screen and continue remedial work including the replacement of floorboards and sideboards needed after porcupines infested the mill, said Crawford. The Friends of Allegany raised some $30,000 to help rehabilitation efforts for the sawmill.
As the group’s vice president, Weaver is involved in the volunteer efforts throughout the park. The year-round camper rents cabins in early spring and late fall, and uses his recreational vehicle when campsites are open.
Weaver said he appreciated the park amenities, now more than ever, he said.
“The park is really busy,” Weaver said. “Actually, I think it gives people something to do. There’s not much else to do. A lot of my out-of-state vacations were canceled. It’s nice having a park to have somewhere to go.”