BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Anyone familiar with the Route 16 corridor in
Cattaraugus County can cite its many attractions: inspiring natural
beauty, friendly inhabitants, a plethora of recreational
opportunities -- including kayaking, fishing, hiking and horseback
riding -- alpaca, bison and dairy farms, maple sugar festivals and
rodeos, and arts, cultural and historical tourist sites.
But they know the drawbacks of the area as well: occasional
dangerous terrain, low per capita income, inaccessibility and poor
signage -- just to name a few.
For years, regional planners have made numerous proposals to
improve economic opportunity along the corridor. But even cohesive
plans did not include concrete recommendations that addressed some
of the issues cited above.
Now, in a planning room on the second floor of Hayes Hall, a
group of nine ambitious UB graduate students are putting the final
touches on a plan and presentation they will give to the Route 16
Corridor Community Partnership, a non-profit organization designed
to breathe life back into the area's struggling economy by
promoting its tourism opportunities.
The informational, community-wide presentation of the UB
students' plan will be presented today at 7 p.m. in the Delevan
Town Hall and is open to the public. The plan will suggest
tourism-based economic development opportunities for the
Cattaraugus County communities situated along Route 16 in New
York's Southern Tier -- including the Delevan, Machias, Hinsdale,
Franklinville and Olean communities.
The students are part of a tourism studio headed by Sam Cole, a
professor of urban and regional planning in UB's School of
Architecture and Planning, an adjunct professor of geography in the
UB College of Arts and Sciences and the former director of the UB
Center for Regional Studies. During his last sabbatical, Cole
prepared a framework for sustainable tourism for the government of
Aruba. Cole has operated the studio, which focuses on developing
economic tourism opportunities in Cattaraugus County, for six years
"The real purpose of the studios is education, however," says
Cole, "and these proposals are payback to communities for letting
us educate students in their backyard. It was a new experience for
them to meet and work with people with backgrounds very different
from their own and to come up with solutions to problems they have
never faced in their own lives."
When preparing their presentation, the students studied the
history of villages and towns along the corridor, analyzed present
demographic and economic conditions, and built on recommendations
made by previous studios run by Cole, which offered tourism
strategies for the same communities.
The previous studios that Cole has run have excited
corridor-wide enthusiasm for the revitalization of tourism in the
area, including prompting the creation of the Route 16 Corridor
Community Partnership. Establishing the Route 16 Corridor Community
Partnership as a non-profit in itself suggested solutions they may
have otherwise missed.
"This allowed the organization to access grant funding and enter
into partnerships that are inaccessible to unincorporated
organizations," says Cole.
These grants could fund branding and marketing strategies
suggested by the students for the region. The strategies would
highlight the corridor's historical and cultural assets, and make
the region both better known and more attractive to potential
"This area in the Southern Tier has dealt with poverty and loss
of population and jobs for so long now," says Tyler Mekus, a
second-year graduate student in UB's Master's in Urban Planning
(MUP) program. "We're trying to use Cattaraugus County as an
example of being able to use tourism to boost an area's
The students' presentation will offer several policy and
programmatic recommendations that could improve economic
conditions, reduce population loss, strengthen the existing sense
of community and increase the corridor's visibility within the
Western New York region based on a tourism-oriented strategy.
Among the students' suggestions made to the Route 16 Corridor
Community Partnership this semester: hiring a tour bus company to
transport tourists from Niagara Falls and Buffalo to Cattaraugus
County and a newly designed travel brochure specifically designed
to pull Asian tourists visiting Niagara Falls to the myriad
attractions of the Route 16 corridor, increasing the corridor's
Though somewhat nervous about giving the presentation, the
students are excited about the opportunity to offer real-world
strategies that may very well be embraced by the partnership and
boost the economy of the Route 16 corridor.
And some of the previous suggestions to come out of the studio
have done just that. Some of the past tourism strategies include
the Sweet 16 Bike Tour, improvements to the Route 16 Garage Sale
and registering local historical sites with the National Register
of Historic Places, all of which were successful.
"We're getting practical application of theory we've been
taught," says David Trent, also a second-year graduate student in
UB's MUP program. "We're coming up with real solutions to problems
they want to address."
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.