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Finn Academy students make Elmira nature trail safer for wildlife

More than 130 Finn Academy charter school students, parents and staff did the environment an Earth Day favor by removing more than 250 pounds of trash along the Lackawanna Rail Trail in Elmira on Saturday (4/22).

The “Give a hoot, don’t pollute” cleanup was part of Elmira school’s second grades owl expedition program. The students spent weeks researching and learning about native owls and what people can do to improve and protect the birds/ habitat – namely pick up litter.

The cleanup with done with the Finn Academy’s expedition learning partner, Chemung River Friends. During the cleanup, the group learned about the history of the trail and the former Erie-Lackawanna Railroad that it was built on.

Thanks to the school’s education program, nearly 50 second-graders, learned how litter can harm and kill owls and other wildlife, pollute our environment and make nature trails unsafe and unsightly,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “Then they did something about it. The cleaned the trail and learned that they can make a difference in protecting our environment. That’s a great lesson to take through life.”

Prior to the 1:30-3 p.m. cleanup the students displayed the poster and other public education materials they created to teach people not to pollute and to enjoy and learn from our region’s native wildlife.”

River Clean-ups!

Chemung River Friends and partners conducted the following environmental cleanups on this Earth Day weekend.  Stay tuned for other River Clean-up opportunities:

 ·        Friday, April 21, 10:00 - noon,  joining volunteers from the Elmira-Corning Board of Realtors to clean up trash on the Southside bank of the Chemung River in downtown Elmira, from Brand Park to Walnut Street Bridge.

·        Saturday, April 22, 1:30 -3:00 p.m., joining 100 students, parents and staff from the Finn Academy to clean up a mile stretch of the Lackawanna Rail Trail. We met  at the trail entrance, adjacent to and just south of the Wegmans plaza parking lot and walked and cleaned along a mile stretch of trail, south toward E. Water Street.

Contact Jim Pfiffer, River Friends Ex. Director, via cell: 607-331-3953.

Big Flats Elementary School plant bee-friendly garden

The students and staff at Big Flats Elementary School are getting environmentally greener by building a bee-loving pollinator garden and adopting a section of the nearby Chemung River.

The pilot project, nicknamed the Pollinator Protectors, is part of the school’s long-term plans to teach students and staff how to recycle, save energy and protect the environment, using demonstration projects in the school’s neighborhood. Each project involves parents and community organizations working with the school to share strategies and plans for preserving nature.

The program kicks off from 4-6 p.m., April 21 when students, parents, staff and community volunteers meet at the 543 Maple St. school. Together the group will build two bee-friendly raised garden beds to be planted with native flowers and vegetables that attract and nurture pollinator insects. Students will also install two rain barrels to collect rain water for the gardens and building creative water jugs and additional rain barrels.

Fourth-grade student, Maycie Bennett, of Tacy Kilmer’s class, is excited about the school’s involvement, and anxious to get digging in the dirt.

I really love nature and can’t wait to be working outside in the pollinator gardens,” Maycie said. “I can’t wait to see all the plants and animals. The garden will bring students together and just be a great learning experience.”

The pollinator project is being coordinated by Jingjing Yin, Community Horticulture Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, in response to the loss of many pollinating insects, birds and animals -- due to agrochemicals, pathogens, climate change and urbanization. The rusty patched bumblebee was recently declared endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The bees’ population has shrunk by 87% since the late 1990s. Pollinators -- including bees, birds and bats -- help pollinate three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35% of the world’s food crops.

Our communities need high quality pollinator habitats,” Yin said. “This project could improve the habitat connectivity across a wider landscape, therefore providing pollinators with adequate food and water within their normal flight radius, and improving residents’ psychological benefits gained from community beautification and biodiversity.”

The on-going project will improve local plant, animal and insect habitats; recycle storm water, protect the river, and teach the students to be environmental stewards. The students will learn how individuals, neighborhoods and communities can make meaningful changes to improve our environment and lives.

The preK-4 school is part of the Horseheads Central School District, and is partnering with Chemung River Friends, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, the USDA Plant Materials Center in Big Flats, Chemung County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Town of Big Flats. Together, the partners will teach environmental education and hands-on projects that allow students to apply their knowledge to improve the local environment.

The lumber and rain barrels for the garden project were donated by the Chemung County Soil & Water Conservation District. The Town of Big Flats donated the soil. The Plant Materials Center donated the seeds and greenhouse use. The remaining partners are helping with the environmental curriculum, programs and projects. Program partners will continue to provide supplies, materials, educational presentations and support to assure the program’s growth and success.

The school will adopt a one-mile stretch of the Chemung River. Students and staff will use the river as an outdoor classroom to learn how to be environmental stewards and protect clean water.

For school principal, Elizabeth Scaptura, the project is a unique learning and partnership opportunity for the students, faculty, staff and the community.

We are hopeful that this project will educate our students and families in gaining a better understanding of how pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and birds impact our community’s ecosystem,” Scaptura said. “It is a very exciting time for all of us.”

The school’s students recently toured the nearby USDA Plant Materials Center where they planted seeds, donated by the center. Their seedlings will be transplanted into the school gardens in late May.

Principal Scaptura and her staff want this to be a meaningful hands-on program that teaches the students what they can do now, and as adults, to protect our environment,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “And they are starting with their school grounds and the surrounding river valley. They will learn how to improve their own community. Everyone wins – especially the environment.”

The program’s proposed long term projects:

  • Building an outdoor classroom pavilion near the gardens, equipped with electricity producing solar panels.

  • Build a rain garden (small shallow rock-filled pond) to collect and slow stormwater to be recycled in the gardens.

  • Install birdhouses, a bat house and a bee hive.

  • Improve the school’s recycling programs, including the disposal of paper and food waste, and reducing its use of energy and water.

During the summer the gardens will be maintained and used by children who attend the Big Flats Town Activities for Flats Youth (TAFFY) program at the school.

HIlliard Foundation donates $5000 to River Friends

The Hilliard Foundation in Elmira recently awarded a $5,000 grant to the Chemung River Friends to help the organization teach river and paddling safety to children and to improve access to area rivers and trails.

The grant will help River Friends purchase equipment and supplies to teach safe paddling classes to hundreds of children, and to improve and repair access roads to boat launches on the Chemung River.

Every year, the Hilliard Foundation supports River Friends to help us make our waterways more accessible and enjoyable, and to teach the public safe and responsible use our rivers for recreation and education,” said Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “This support, from a local community foundation, helps improve the quality of life and natural environment of the community.”

The 33-year-old Hilliard Foundation is the gift-giving arm of The Hilliard Corporation, a 620-employee Elmira business that makes clutches and industrial filtration equipment.

River Friends is a nine-year-old nonprofit organization, in Elmira that partners with municipalities and residents to protect and use our rivers in Chemung and Steuben counties.

Contact: Jim Pfiffer


Free binoculars thanks to a local connection with a global company

People joining the Chemung River Friends on hikes and paddles will have a closer view of nature, thanks to Vanguard USA, Inc. for its recent donation of binoculars and more than $2,000 in hiking equipment - including five binoculars, carrying straps, carrying cases and a hiking backpack.

River Friends’ new Osprey Clean Water program will use the five binoculars to teach children how to use them to watch nesting ospreys (fish hawks) on the Chemung River, and to learn why the birds need clean water to survive.

This generous New Year’s gift comes as River Friends is seeking funding to purchase 10 binoculars and cases for our osprey education program that kicks off this spring,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “The Vanguard binoculars are high-quality, compact and easy for children to hold and use. We will use the binoculars and backpack at all of our outdoor recreation and education programs to educate and reconnect people with nature.”

The donation was possible thanks to River Friends Board President, Tom Beecher, whose son, Tom Beecher, Jr., formerly of Elmira, is the USA managing director for Vanguard in Whitmore Lake, MI. The younger Beecher and his company donated the equipment to River Friends to help promote environmental education and stewardship. The company also offered River Friends reduced prices on future purchases of optical and photo equipment.

Binoculars give you close-up views of wildlife – a drawing card that attracts youth to nature,” Pfiffer said. “Protecting and enjoying nature requires support from local, national and even global partners. This gift from Vanguard makes it easier for us to get the public – especially children -- interested in our waterways and what they can do to protect them. That benefits everyone.”

Vanguard is a global leader in high-quality optical, photo and video accessories. For more information, go to www.vanguardworld.usa.

Village of Riverside boasts a new grassy Chemung River path

Area residents can enjoy a walk along a new grassy Chemung River path thanks to the Village of Riverside, which is just west of Corning, and Chemung River Friends.

The simple, one-mile mowed loop path runs on the north side of the river in the Village of Riverside, between Patterson Bridge and Cutler Creek, where it empties in the river.

The path is a cooperative effort between the Village of Riverside and Chemung River Friends in Elmira. The project began eight years ago when a former Corning couple, John and Polly Guth, donated funds to River Friends to build a river path in Corning. River Friends did the planning, laid out the path and worked with village Mayor Bill Cornell to create the path.

"The path is proof that by simply cutting a strip of grass in the right place, a municipality can create a path for recreation, exercise, transportation and a visit with nature,” said River Friends Board Secretary Tom O’Brien said.

The path loops over a wide and flat river plain, between the grassy flood levee and the water. Half of it is within a few yards of the river and the other half is near the levee.

The path pinches in the middle of the loop – giving it a lopsided figure-eight shape -- to allow safe passage around a grassy drainage culvert leading to the river.

River Friends plans to lead guided walks and cross-country ski trips on the path and help keep it clean. The Village of Riverside will mow the trail.

There is not much in the way of trails or walking paths in Riverside,” said Cornell, village mayor for the past 24 years. “This path gives people a nice place to walk and get exercise outside. People love that. And it has no cost to the village, other than the gas to run the mower.”

The path has the potential to grow and expand along the river into neighboring communities in Steuben County, depending on the public’s use, feedback and municipal plans.

This is a primitive, but easy-to-use grass path for walking, jogging, cycling, pet walking or cross-country skiing and snowshoeing,” said Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “It’s flat, wide open and offers thousands of yards of unobstructed views of the path, river, hills and sky. Use it for exercise, a place to fish or a comfortable commune with nature.”

The path is open and free for public use. There are no markers, signs, benches or other amenities. It can be accessed from the William Street Park in Corning. Walk up and over a grass ramp on the flood levee to the river’s edge, walk west (upstream) under the Patterson Bridge to the path.

River Friends, Kiwanis and Realtors do spring cleanups on Chemung, Cohocton Rivers

River Friends, Kiwanis and Realtors to do spring cleanups on the Chemung and Cohocton Rivers

Just in time for the beginning of the paddling and hiking season, the Steuben County community is helping make the Chemung and Cohocton rivers cleaner, safer and easier to use.

The Chemung River Friends is partnering with the Painted Post Kiwanis Club, the Elmira-Corning Regional Association of Realtors and the Town of Erwin to complete the projects in April and May.

More than 20 volunteers from the Realtors association will remove littler and trash along the Chemung River banks from 9 a.m. to noon, May 14 (location to be determined). During the cleanup River Friends staff will explain how clean and well used rivers provide recreation, education and a commune with nature, thus making the area more attractive to potential homebuyers and businesses.

For many years, the Elmira-Corning Association of Realtors has been active in community service projects,” said Terrie Burke, president of the Realtor Association. “Making the Chemung River a safe and enjoyable experience to all those who not only live near the river, but those who use it for recreation as well, is very important to us. Helping with the river clean-up was at the top of our list of projects this year.”

A protected and well-used river -- for recreation, ecological education and a visit with nature – reflect the community’s culture, love and respect for the environment,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “It sends a message to potential property owners that the community cares and respects its clean water, environment and quality of life”

That’s one reason why a dozen members of the Kiwanis club cleaned and improved the Kinsella Park Boat Launch on the Cohocton River in the Town of Erwin, from 8 a.m. to noon on April 24. The work is part of the annual International Kiwanis Inc. “One Day Project,” a Kiwanis branded program to encourage Kiwanis Clubs from around the world to improve their communities through leadership and service. The Kinsella Park work included:

  • Removing trash, downed tree limbs and debris from the river trail at the boat launch and possibly replacing wood chips on the trail as needed.

  • Installing four bird houses and two duck houses along the trail.

  • Inspecting the park benches to see if they need repair or repainting and make such repairs.

  • Looking for sites for future fishing access from the trail to the river.

  • Marking the trail with biodegradable paint blazes on trail-side trees to make it easier for cross-country skiers and hikers to follow the trail beneath winter snow.

  • A licensed forester and member of the Kiwanis club will assess the condition of the trees at the site for potential problems and any needed pruning or improvements.

Town of Erwin officials have approved the project and the removal of the debris and trash generated during the cleanup.

We have done a ‘one day’ project every April for nine years,” said Mike Clark, secretary and past president of the Painted Post Kiwanis Club. “It’s part of our mission for members to volunteer to improve our communities and environment. The river, park and boat launch give people an easy way to enjoy nature. That’s why we decided to do the cleanup and repairs. It benefits the river and trail users, the environment and the community.”

Photographers selected for River Friends 2017 Calendar

The natural beauty of our rivers has been captured by 21 local photographers whose stunning river photos will be featured in a 2017 calendar created by Chemung River Friends.

From bald eagles and herons to scenic riverscapes and paddling adventures, the calendar will feature more than two dozen color photos and quotes, poems and words of wisdom from local poets and writers.

The proceeds from the $15 calendars help River Friends promote and protect our rivers and encourage the public to better use, enjoy and respect our waterways.

The river calendars are a charitable way to enjoy the majestic beauty and varied wildlife that is our rivers, while helping the nonprofit River Friends protect and improve that natural beauty for future generations,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “The calendars also showcase the talents and skills of our local photographers and writers who find creative inspiration in nature.”

River Friends and the organization’s business partner, Copy Express in Elmira, expect to have the calendars ready for sale in time for summer paddling trips and education and outreach events. The calendars will be sold at soon-to-be announced locally-owned shops and stores.

The 2017 River Friends calendar photographers are: Roger Allaire, Stephanie Baker, Charles Baldwin, Elizabeth Biroscak, Steve Brinthaupt, Susan Cratsley, Jen Donovan, Becky Enders, Janie Ferguson, Debbie Fieno, Stevie G. Graley, Bill Keefe, Randy Olthof, Carrick Palmer, Rod Reynolds, Rick Siglin, Noel Sylvester, Arthur Thompson, Christopher Walters, Chris White and Lynn Winner.

"It is not too soon to start taking photos for the 2018 calendar -- and you don't have to be a professional," Pfiffer said.  "The rivers are beautiful any time of year. We invite everyone who enjoys our rivers to take photos and send them to us." 

River Friends is a not-for-profit organization formed in December 2009 to preserve and promote the 45-mile-long Chemung River and its tributaries -- the Canisteo, Cohocton, Cowanesque and Tioga rivers.  Find us on Facebook or go to our webpage for more information. 

Below are some of the photos in the 2017 River Friends calendars.

River Patriots and Bait Shop win 2015 River Friends awards

An Elmira bait shop and a group volunteers, who call themselves the River Patriots, received awards at the Chemung River Friends Annual Meeting on Nov. 17 at the Golden Glow Volunteer Fire Company in Big Flats.

Swarthout’s Nickle Creek Bait & Tackle Shop in Elmira received the 2015 River Friends Business of the Year Award for helping River Friends promote and protect our waterways and educate young people about the importance of environmental stewardship. The shop owners and managers, Melissa Rinker, Diane Swarthout and Holly Ryan, donated supplies and helped River Friends with youth fishing derbies, life vest give-a-ways and river safety education.

The Chemung River Friends 2015 Volunteers of the Year Award went to the River Patriots – Brian Layton, Dan Layton, Donald Layton, Rod Vanderpool and Kitty Vanderpool -- for adopting and cleaning several boat launches on the Chemung River during the year. The three-year-old group removed more than 900 pounds of trash from in and around the river in 2015.

These award recipients are great examples of the unselfish people in our community who volunteer their time and resources to take care of our rivers and environment,” said Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “They show you what can be accomplished when you roll up your sleeves and work together to improve our community.”

Also at the annual meeting, Pauline Emery, of Big Flats, was thanked for her 18 months service as interim board president of River Friends. She will continue to serve as a board member.

Grove Street Site selected for "Points of Interest"

River Friends and the Chemung River are honored with a recently erected Points of Inspiration banner at the entrance to the Grove Street Boat Launch in Elmira.

The project features a driving tour of interesting sights, history and information in Chemung, Schuyler and Steuben counties.

The project is sponsored by the ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes -- an organization that appreciates the beauty of our waterways and nature


Mile Markers Will Improve River Safety

Paddler location signs installed along the Chemung River in Big Flats

Another section of the Chemung River is safer and more fun to paddle thanks to the recent installation of 34 location signs along the waterway in Big Flats.

The bright yellow signs with ID numbers will help river users know their location on the water, and help emergency responders locate and rescue people in emergency situations on the river.

The signs were installed Sept. 5 from Fitch’s Bridge in Big Flats to the Chemung/Steuben County line by volunteers from the Golden Glow and Big Flats Fire Departments. They were installed in tandem – two on each side of the river at each location –on trees about six-feet off the ground for better visibility.

To help paddlers more easily spot the signs, the trees where they hang and nearby rocks are marked with orange paint and yellow “caution streamers.”

These are not mile markers, but location markers to help paddlers know where they are on the river and to help emergency personnel locate and respond to river emergencies,” said Bob Barnes, chief of the Golden Glow Volunteer Fire Department.

When emergency responders – usually fire departments – don’t know the location of the incident, it can add hours to the response time.

Many of the signs are located in hazardous sections of the river, where many paddlers get into trouble due to downed trees, swift currents and shifting gravel bars.

The signs feature black lettering and numbers donating the fire district and the sign’s location on the river. The letters “GG” show that the sign is in the Golden Glow Volunteer Fire Department’s coverage area. The number corresponds to a GPS location available to emergency responders. That number can be used by paddlers with cell phones on the river. The signs help pinpoint their location in emergency calls to 991 operators.

The signs were paid for by the Town of Big Flats.

Earlier this summer, the West Elmira Police installed similar location signs on posts, set in concrete in 5-gallon buckets and placed along the riverbanks. The signs will be removed prior to cold weather and ice flows, and returned to the river shore in the spring.

The project is a partnership between the Chemung County Emergency Management, River Friends, fire departments, emergency responders and the municipalities along the river.

Eventually we would like to see location markers on the entire 45-mile river, from Painted Post in Steuben County to Athens in Bradford County, Pa.,” said Jim Pfiffer, executive director of River Friends.

The location markers are part of an ever-improving project that depends on public feedback and responsible use of the location marker system. The color, design, placement and info on the signs may change, based on how well they serve the river-using public.

The success of the program depends on feedback from paddlers and river users, as to whether they can easily see the signs, read them and remember the sign number and letter,” Pfiffer said. “Paddlers need to be on the lookout for the signs and make a mental note of information on the sign.”

The markers are part of long-range plans to improve river safety and public river safety education. While the markers will make it easier to rescue people in trouble, the best way to improve river safety is to not get into trouble in the first place. That means the public has to use some common sense precautions and learn basic paddling and river safety.

The river is a great recreational resource and we need to make it as safe as we can for people who are using it,” said Town of Big Flats Supervisor Ed Fairbrother. “

That safety includes:

  • Always wearing a properly fitted and bucked-up life vest when on our near the water.

  • If you have never paddled a canoe or kayak, take a beginners class or join a guided paddle to learn the basics.

  • Never paddle a river without first scouting out the paddle, ahead of time, either by boat or on foot, to look for hazards (like trees in the water) and other potential threats.

  • River conditions, from water levels and sand bars to fallen trees and other obstructions, change all the time. A safe section of the river today may be blocked by a downed tree tomorrow.

  • While paddling if you see a hazard ahead or are not sure about an obstruction in the river, pull ashore and investigate the hazard or walk your boats around it. Wear water shoes, sneakers or hard-soled shoes. Carry a whistle and spare paddle.

  • Never paddle alone and always tell someone of your route and schedule.

  • Bring a cell phone in a water-tight container, attached to the boat or paddler. Remember, you may not get cell service and 911 phone contact on all sections of the river.

  • Save the alcoholic beverages for when the trip is over and you are home.

For more river safety tips and information visit the Chemung River Friends webpage at


  • Golden Glow Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Barnes, 607-215-2886

  • Chemung River Friends Director Jim Pfiffer, 607-846-2242 or

  • Big Flats Town Supervisor Ed Fairbrother, 607-562-8443

  • Chemung County Emergency Management Director Mark J. Cicora Jr. 607-737-2928

Photo cutline: The GG on the sign signifies Golden Glow Fire District and the number 18 represents the GPS location on the Chemung River. Golden Glow Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Barnes displays one of the river location signs. (Chemung River Friends photo)

Volunteers Needed!

Volunteers Needed!

Keeping our rivers and streams and their watersheds clean often depends on the work of volunteers.  It is rewarding to know that you can make a difference.  Ready to pitch in?  Be in touch with Jim Pfiffer, River Friends Executive Director, at or call 607-846-2242.

Shorter Name for River Friends and more!

River Friends adopt friendly name

The Friends of the Chemung River Watershed agrees with the public – the name is too long, difficult to remember and easy to confuse.

We listened, to you, and we have responded to your request for a more user-friendly name. We have shortened our name to Chemung River Friends.

That change officially occurred on March 31, when the Division of Corporations of the New York State Department of State issued our “Assumed Name Certificate.”

Our official and incorporated name is still Friends of the Chemung River Watershed,” said Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “The shorter name will be used for easier name recognition, outreach and publicity. Our logo remains the same with the longer name.”

The original long name was adopted six years ago to reflect the Chemung River Friends’ mission to protect and promote all of the waterways in the Chemung Watershed (including Cohocton, Tioga, Canisteo and Susquehanna rivers).

Our name changed, not our mission,” Pfiffer said. “We still cover the same watershed and will continue to encourage public use, enjoyment and respect for our rivers and environment.”

The public can still use the longer name in documents, letters and checks.

In the interest of conservation,” Pfiffer added, “we ask that you use the shorter name. It saves ink, paper and trees.”


Grant helps River Friends give away 100 youth life vests

River Friends will give away 100 children’s life vests this year as part of its youth water safety program.

The U.S. Coast Guard-approved vests were purchased with a $2,550 grant from the Anderson Foundation, Inc. of Elmira.

The colorful vests are silk-screened with the River Friends logo and the slogan “Be your best. Wear your vest.” The vest give-a-way is part of River Friends efforts to teach children water safety.

The Anderson Foundation has been a big supporter of River Friends and our efforts to protect our waterways and make them easier to enjoy and safer for public recreation and education,” said Jim Pfiffer, River Friends executive director. “The foundation has provided grants to help us purchase a river rescue boat and equipment, and provide river safety education programs.”

Pfiffer reminds the public to always wear a well-fitted, buckled life vest when on or near water.

Too many children can’t afford vest or don’t know the importance of wearing a life vest,” Pfiffer said. “There are the children we are targeting in our public education programs to make river recreation safer.

# # #

Our river runs through it: How the Chemung River buoys downtown Elmira businesses By Ruth Harper

When he bought a building on Elmira’s West Water Street about a year and a half ago, Max Ahmad didn’t plan to open a restaurant. But he fell in love with what Water Street offers: views of the Chemung River.

“I used to stand there and look at the river,” he said. “Then I decided, why not open a restaurant downstairs? When I bought the building, I didn’t think of opening a restaurant.” Ahmad opened Bistro 223 at 223 W. Water St. in August. He hopes the view from his restaurant helps Elmirans gain a new appreciation for the river.

“I thought, it’s such a river that no one pays attention to,” Ahmad said. “People don’t know there’s a river there. People don’t care about the river. The river, bad, bad, bad. (In 1972) we had a flood. Bad, bad, bad. And I always used to look at the river and say, ‘You know, you’re such a pretty little river and you’re so neglected.’”

As he worked on the restaurant, he faced a problem: A huge flood wall blocked the first-floor restaurants’ view of the water. He decided to place a mirror so guests could watch the water while enjoying a meal.

Roundin’ Third, a sports bar and restaurant at 255 W. Water St., has also capitalized on the river’s beauty by offering the public a view from its second-story deck, said owner Dain Reese. The deck brings in return business more than new business because he hasn’t had time to promote the deck as much as he would like. However, the second story has a banquet room and the deck contains four tables any restaurant visitor can use.

“It’s beautiful out there, and the people who come see it, they come back,” Reese said. “Every single person that has been here and has taken the time to go see it absolutely loves it. I think people should start utilizing the river a little more. (We) should do more up (on the deck) anyway, maybe just to bring people up there.” Restaurants aren’t the only businesses drawn to the river as a selling point. Gina and Mike Mitchell own Riverside Suites, a building at 231 W. Water St. that contains office spaces, apartments and two retail storefronts, including one for Copy Express, which the Mitchells own. Gina Mitchell said 75 percent of the Riverside Suites building is occupied, including a counseling office that rents an office suite. The couple currently has offices for rent.

“We like the view from the offices and we think that’s what attracted people who want to work in an office with a view,” Mitchell said.

Views of the river appeal to the apartment tenants, too, Mitchell said. One tenant takes advantage of his riverside location to go fly fishing.

“He walks out the back door, crosses the (Main Street) bridge, does his thing and can walk home from there,” Mitchell said. “He likes that he can do that right there and doesn’t have to go anywhere.”

Another tenant has a back deck where he likes to sit and watch the river and a third tenant moved in because he wanted to be able to walk to work each day, Mitchell said. The couple is working to expand river viewing options

“We’re still working on a plan for the rooftop deck that would have another view of the river,” Mitchell said.

Ahmad has ideas for better viewing of the river in the future, too. He said he would like the city of Elmira to break a little bit of the wall or build a staircase going over the wall so Water Street pedestrians wanting to see the river up close can do so. “No one can go see the river unless they go far, a mile away, drive back and they lose their energy,” Ahmad said.

Luckily for Ahmad and other Elmira residents, the city of Elmira and the Friends of the Chemung River Watershed are working to give downtown Elmira better public access to the river. Tentative plans include a viewing platform on the flood wall overlooking the river near the Riverfront Park on Water Street in downtown Elmira.

Other options include installing a stairway over the flood wall to give the public access to the river. When the river is low, hikers can trek along the banks; it provides great exercise and an up-close view of the river and nature.

Plans also include building a multi-use recreation trail adjacent to the flood wall but high enough to give users a scenic view of the water.

“Providing visual and physical access to the river in downtown is one of the most popular requests by the public,” said Jim Pfiffer, director of the Friends of the Chemung River Watershed. “That’s why we are partnering with the city and other organizations to make the river more accessible and enjoyable.

“It’s a beautiful waterway that flows through the center of our city. The river not only attracts businesses to the area, but also provides us with an opportunity to connect with nature and learn more about our environment.”

Ruth Harper has lived in Elmira since she was a toddler. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from St. Bonaventure University. While pursuing a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from St. Bonaventure, she works as a freelance writer and marketer. Her email address is ...more>>

Flood Mitigation

Source: Southern Tier Central Regional Planning & Development Board,

Flooding is a fact of life in the Southern Tier Central region of New York. Flash floods may occur quickly with little or no warning. Since the devastating flood caused by Tropical Storm Agnes in June of 1972, various government agencies and other organizations have made efforts to improve flood warnings and reduce the damages caused by flooding. STC provides technical assistance for a variety of flood risk management activities.

After every flood, the tendency has been for residents to rebuild their lives and pray that "this is the last destructive one." Structural projects have been built in hopes of controlling future flood waters. As time passes, people tend to forget about flooding and become complacent. Additional development occurs in flood-prone areas. Deforestation and upland development increase the amount of runoff. Stream channels are allowed to become clogged with debris. In short, residents of the Southern Tier Central region continue to grossly underestimate the destructive powers of their rivers, streams, and lakes. If future flood damages are to be reduced, flood mitigation measures will need to be incorporated into programs that will outlive the all-too-short memories of area residents.

Things you can do to manage flood risks include:
  • Pay attention to flood warnings and obey evacuation orders. Never drive through flooded roadways: Turn Around Don't Drown!
  • Do not dump or throw anything into ditches, streams or other waterways. Maintain undeveloped vegetated buffers along rivers, streams, and lakeshores.
  • Protect flood control structures: Do not operate motor vehicles on an earthen levee or engage in other activities that might damage the vegetation.
  • Make sure that land use activities do not increase the amount of runoff and thus contribute to increased flood hazards. If you live in a high flood risk area, take steps to protect your property from flood damage.
  • Purchase flood insurance for buildings and contents in order to protect your financial investment.

  • Friends of the Chemung River Watershed • 111 N. Main St., Elmira, N.Y. 14901 • (607) 846-2242 •