SPRINGVILLE—What started as an idea to design a route to show off and protect the natural beauty along roadways in the Southtowns, has since grown to over 100 miles of the Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway. Celebrating its 10 year anniversary, the WNYSSB has grown to include parts of Cattaraugus County and multiple towns throughout Erie County.
In 2002, current WNYSSB president Bob Lennartz thought of the idea and started doing the research, working with the New York State Scenic Byway Program to develop a route that connected towns and villages along the path. Grants were later obtained for a Corridor Management Plan and Nomination Study and after support from local leaders and municipalities along the route, the WNYSSB was officially approved in 2008 from Orchard Park to Springville.
After a suggestion from a resident to expand the byway into Cattaraugus County, Lennartz started getting ideas together and working with towns on the extension, which was approved in 2015.
“When you are starting something like this … it’s chancy, you have to somehow get public acceptance and municipality acceptance to do it. There is a little risk to it,” Lennartz said. “To see that 10 years later that we are still moving along feels pretty good.”
The Western New York Southtowns Scenic Byway currently stretches 108 miles through Erie and Cattaraugus counties, passing though many towns and villages including East Aurora, Orchard Park, Boston, Colden, Concord, Springville, Ashford and Ellicottville.
With various historic sites and notable places along the route, interpretive signs are placed in special areas that speak to the history, attractions within the municipality and information about the rest of the Scenic Byway. There are 16 signs along the Byway, though Lennartz hopes the number will increase in the future.
“The signs have gone over very well as people stop at the attractions and read about what they are looking at,” he said. “Each interpretive sign, we have gotten input from the people at the location, photographs they wanted on the sign or help with the history of what’s there. It’s more of a community input of what should be highlighted.”
Whether its a longtime resident looking for a new place to take a day trip or drivers coming to the area looking for something unique to see and do, the WNYSSB continues to highlight and help preserve what the Southtowns has to offer.
“If somebody was coming new to Western New York, they may think of the snow, but they wouldn’t know about the beauty of Chestnut Ridge, they wouldn’t know the beautiful village of Springville and what an active community that it is or Griffis Sculpture Park,” Lennartz said. “We have been able to highlight these different places so somebody coming in can get a real appreciation what people who have lived here a long time probably know but maybe a new visitor might not.”
The WNYSSB Committee is content with the length, Lennartz said, and is focusing on working with towns to figure out the best places for new interpretive signs.
For more information on the WNYSSB, visit wnyssb.org.