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GCC students ready to pitch Batavia Loop Trail project in statewide competition for funding

In something like a dress rehearsal for their big presentation in Albany on Friday, five Genesee Community College students stood before local officials and the media and made their pitch for a bike and walking trail that would surround Batavia.

The Batavia Loop Trail project is one of the finalists the Social Entrepreneurship / Nonprofit category in the fifth annual New York Business Plan Competition.

A win could mean a $50,000 prize for the project.

City Manager Jason Molino said at the end of the presentation, the project sounds like a winner even if it doesn't win the competition.

"Personally, I think it's a home run," Molino said. "It's closely accessible to residential property and adds a quality-of-life perspective that right now isn't there."

The Batavia Loop Trail would leverage an already-funded trail -- to the tune of $1.5 million provided by the state's Transportation Enhancement Program -- and create a closed circle around the city, providing safer, quicker bicycle access to the college campus from the city.

The total cost of the project hasn't been determined, but the students said their plan calls for it being completed by 2025.

"This is really a transformative project and we feel like we're the students to get it off the ground," Maryssa Peirick said.

Besides making the GCC campus and the city better connected, the trail plan passes within a block or two of 100 local businesses and several parks.

Students said the loop -- and Assemblyman Steve Hawley agreed -- will help attract bike riders from throughout the region. Hawley said he frequently goes to neighboring counties, such as those along the Erie Canel, to ride his bike.

If the students can win the top prize it would fund a feasibility study, which would help determine the final route and the project costs.

Molino said there are several potential grants from both public and private funders for such a project and winning the competition would certainly help attract more support.

"If you came back with $50,000 ready to roll, that would pull in a lot more interest," Molino said.

The students also anticipate doing local fund raising to help pay for the project.

Potential project partners include the city and town of Batavia, City Schools, the Chamber of Commerce, Genesee County Economic Development Center, Leadership Genesee, local civic clubs and Vibrant Batavia.

Hawley said he found the students' presentation impressive.

"Quality of life is an important issue for economic development," Hawley said. "It will help retain our current population and attract new people to visit and live right here in our area. All of this means new revenue, and spreading of the oppressive tax burden among more, thereby lessening the individual burden for all."

This is the projected trail map. It could be revised through the feasability study process.

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