CORNING - The creation of a near 7-mile river trail that would run from South Corning to Erwin through the city near the edge of the Chemung River was recently discussed by the Chemung River Friends to the city Parks Improvement Committee.


“It’s free. You have access 24/7. No tickets. No reservations. It’s yours to use, to respect and to take care of,” Jim Pfiffer, executive director of Chemung River Friends told the Parks Improvement Committee. “That’s how I’ve found the public takes care of the trails.”


Pfiffer said a river trail can be used for outdoor trails, entrance to boat launches, to teach classes and much more


“You can pretty much use the outdoors for any venue,” Pfiffer said. “We use it a lot to talk about protecting the environment. It's a wonderful asset that we have out there and we are not using it enough, or making the most of it.”


The Chemung River Friends currently do cleanups and lead bike and walking trips on two rivers trails in and near the City of Elmira.


Corning Mayor Bill Boland asked Pfiffer during the session if the use of the land that would house the 10-foot river trails needs to be approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.


River Friends Board Secretary Tom O’Brien believes the communities should file an application to the DEC for a permit to cut the grass.


“Then (communities) are protected,” O’Brien said. “If we fail to apply with the permit then we will lose the right to cut the grass.”


Boland then asked Pfiffer how much money it would cost to mow the trail for a season.


Pfiffer said $200-$300 for a season.


“That doesn't sound like a credible number,” Boland said.


Councilman Frank Muccini, R-5, a member of the city Parks Improvement Committee, said he feels a lot of people in the six communities would step up to donate their time and their effort to the project.


“Bill let's say it cost $1,000. That’s all you are paying $1,000, for what you are giving the community,” Pfiffer said. “I say the communities pay for it. It’s a great investment. It’s $1,000 at the most and it comes out of six municipalities.”


Councilman Diane Telehany, D-1, also a member of the city Parks Improvement Committee, asked if the six communities, city and town of Corning, South Corning, Painted Post, Riverside and Painted Post, would possibly be sued if someone was injured on the trail.


“That’s part of the municipality. Anybody can sue you for anything,” Pfiffer said. “It doesn't mean you are going to win. It may get thrown out. But to use that as an excuse not to do this doesn't seem to make sense to me.”


Pfiffer said one of the things the Corning area has that is not in the Elmira area is a Fortune 400 company.


Boland said to Pfiffer you keep referencing Corning Inc., do you expect the company to help fund the trail.


“Here is how I look at it. They want to attract and keep good employees, so building a trail that employees can use, going let them paddle down the river. It's going to make them healthier and happier,” Pfiffer said. “(Corning Inc.) will yeah I’d like to get involved with that and put some money behind it. Sure. I think they would.


Corning Inc. owns a parcel of property to the Chemung River, on the city’s Northside near the YMCA, that the river trail would need to cross over.


Chris Sharkey, president of Corning Enterprises, said the company has not had any conversation about the river trail with any groups and made no comment.


City Manager Mark Ryckman said finding safe ways to enjoy the Chemung River is important.


“The previous levy-top trail plan developed by our former Planning Director seems much safer than building a trail at the water’s edge,” Ryckman said. “There are numerous challenges cited in the 2010 River Trail Assessment and Vision Process study. Some of these include legal constraints, permitting requirements, maintenance costs, and land ownership.”


Ryckman said the city police and fire departments also have concerns about attracting more visitors to the waterfront especially with school age children who may be unsupervised.


"The required training and equipment needed to affect a swift water rescue is significant," said Brad Davies, Corning City Fire Chief. "The river conditions can change rapidly. Individuals who are not experienced and who do not have the proper equipment should not be near the water's edge."


Corning Police Chief Jeff Spaulding said many times the police department gets called about activities down by the river in the area that is not in public view.


“We go down and investigate we find that it is people engaged in illegal activities,” Spaulding said. “We’ve had meth labs discovered down near the river, people down there using illicit drugs and engaging in sexual activities.”