New concrete boat ramp and paved access road make it easier and safer to access the Chemung River

Updated: Aug 18, 2020


Chemung River Friends

Contact: Jim Pfiffer, director Nov. 5, 2019

(607) 846-2242 or (607) 331-3953

New concrete boat ramp and paved access road make it easier and safer to access the Chemung River in Big Flats

The many potholes, ruts and thick mud at Fitch’s Bridge Boat Launch in Big Flats have been replaced with a smooth paved access road and parking area and a concrete boat ramp into the Chemung River.

The recently completed improvements make it easier and safer for river users to drive vehicles and boat trailers to the river’s edge, and to get their canoes, kayaks and fishing boats in and out of the water.

“Fitch’s Bridge is one of the most popular launches on the river, but for the last several years it was nearly impossible to use because of the numerous and deep pot holes, ruts and the ankle-deep mud on the former dirt access road and parking lot,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer.

The 30-foot concrete ramp was installed in July and features a plaque honoring the late Tom Beecher, a former River Friends board president, who died in 2017 and who enjoyed fishing and paddling on the river. The plaque was created and donated to River Friends by Southern Tier Custom Fabricators in Elmira.

The improvements will help reduce the tons of soil and stones that washed into the river when it rained or snowed, Pfiffer said.

The project, three years in the making, is the result of a community partnership, lead by Chemung River Friends and these partners:

· The Sportsmen’s Federation of Chemung County, which owns the boat launch and access road and agreed to keep the launch open to the public for free.

· Rycon Construction of Elmira which built the concrete ramp for free.

· The Town of Big Flats which provided the equipment and labor, for free, to pave the road and parking area and install a drainage pipe to remove pooled water in the parking area.

· Chemung River Friends, which acquired the state permits and paid nearly $8,000 for materials and supplies.

“This is a great example of what can be accomplished when government, private business and nonprofits work together to improve the environment, outdoor recreation and quality of life,” Pfiffer said. “Now the launch can more easily be used for boating, fishing, nature photography, bird-watching and a visit with nature.”

Prior to the improvements, the access road was so badly damaged that vehicles would drive off it, into the grass, creating deep ruts, mud and additional erosion of soil, stones and vegetation into the river.

“The launch is part of the most popular stretches of the river for paddling, between Bottcher’s Landing in Big Flats and the Grove Street Boat Launch in Elmira,” Pfiffer said. “More than 3,000 people paddle that stretch of the river each year.’

The 40-foot-long, 10-foot-wide and 8-inch-thick boat ramp was installed in May.

The access road and parking area were paved in October. The improvements to the nearly 100-yard-long access road, off County Route 225 (Hendy Creek Road) should last for more than 20 years.

“The road isn’t used by heavy trucks or equipment and won’t be plowed or salted in the winter (which causing pavement damage), thereby extending its life and usefulness,” Pfiffer said.

While the improvements make it easier for river recreationists to use the river, they also make it easier and quicker for emergency personnel to put rescue boats into the river, reducing the time and difficulties of getting into the river and the scene of the emergency.

River Fiends will continue to work with the Sportsmen’s Federation and the Town of Big Flats to keep the access road and boat launch in good condition.

Before and after photos of Fitch’s Bridge Boat Launch

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