By Dick Spade
The Rifle Range Trail is located on Empire Blvd, behind Froggy’s Restaurant. The main trail goes all the way to Ellison Park. In addition, the trail network includes many loop opportunities, which branch off and return back to the main (white) trail. These loops provide various views of the wetlands, beautiful wildflowers, grand old trees, and a “wilderness type experience” all very close to home. See the map on the next page.
The Trail’s name comes from the fact that the area had previously been a National Guard and a US Army weapons training site. The area was last used for military training during the Korean War. Over the years, the Genesee Valley Chapter of ADK (GVC) has cleared out two of the old ranges, one rifle and one pistol, providing visitors a view into the past.
The Trail was first conceived by Steve Webber and Joe Schuler in the early 1980s. At that time, there was a major trail initiative sponsored by the County to explore the feasibility of using open lands, such as old railroad rights of way, for new hiking trails. Some thirty or forty areas were proposed but only one ever came to fruition. This area became what we now know as the Rifle Range Trail. This success was only because of the vision and leadership of Steve and Joe. Because of their forward thinking and tenacity, future generations will get to enjoy this beautiful place. Steve and Joe fit my definition of unsung heroes.
The section of the trail that they laid out and developed was limited by the available public land at the time, encompassing the main trail down to the water’s edge and the narrows area. Twice, in recent years, the County purchased additional land adjacent to the Trail, and at that time the GVC adopted the Trail.
We started work in 1995 and have been at it ever since. So many GVC members have worked on it that if I tried to mention them all I would miss some, so I won’t even try. Here is what these hard working souls have accomplished:
Rebuilding the gazebo was a major project that was done as a National Trails Day project. Volunteers rebuilt the roof structure and added new shingles, scraped, and put two coats of paint on the whole structure.
Our trail building over the years was always on park land, or so we thought. About three quarters of the way to Ellison Park we ran out of public land, and our second partnership was formed (the first was with the County Parks Department). The Town of Penfield and its Trails Committee have shared and supported Steve and Joe’s vision, and have made it possible to expand the Trail. The Town of Penfield Planning Department negotiated a permanent easement with the out-of-state corporate land owner, so that we could continue the Trail on to Ellison Park. Our chapter has completed numerous joint projects with the Penfield Trails Committee, and more on are the agenda for the coming year.
This whole trail system is a testimony to the vision of two super guys, the cooperation of various public, private and non-profit entities working together, and the hard work of an army of volunteers to create something for our children’s children.
It is your land. Come and enjoy!