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River Friends Events:

March 24 - Ice sake with real life heroes and help protect our rivers.

Ice skate with real life heroes and help protect our rivers


The public is invited to meet and ice skate with Elmira city firefighters and help support Chemung River Friends from noon to 2 p.m. March 24 at First Arena, 155 N. Main St., Elmira.


The firefighters, members of  International Association of Fire Fighters Local 709, are hosting the Skate With Elmira Professional Firefighters event to thank the community for its support and to give citizens – especially children – a chance to meet these real-life heroes and learn more about what they do.  While the event is free, the public is invited to help support the Chemung River Friends by tossing some cash into a donation can.


“We work closely with the firefighters to improve river and paddling safety on the Chemung River,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “They are the people who respond to river emergencies. We thank the firefighters for hosting the event and supporting River Friends. You get to meet the men and women who provide that river safety, learn about their jobs, enjoy some winter exercise indoors, and help protect our rivers.”


This year, River Friends purchased a river rescue boat and propless motor and donated it to the Elmira Fire Department to improve river safety. In the past River Friends purchased and donated rescue wet suits and a water rescue training mannequin to the fire department.


Elmira Fire Dept.ladder trucks

The event also includes:

  • The chance to see a ladder truck up close and learn how it works.

  • Firefighters on the ice and in the stands talking with people, answering questions and teaching children about fire and water safety.

  • An opportunity to talk with Chemung River Friends staff and learn about the group’s 2018 plans to improve river use, safety and protection.

  • River Friends will give away free youth life vests (children must be present to be properly fitted).

  • Food and beverages will be available in vending machines.

March 1 public discussion: a project to better use the Chemung River

The Town of Big Flats and the Chemung River Valley Coalition

Invite you, friends and colleagues to a public presentation and discussion of


A project to better use the Chemung River, trails and recreational resources in the river valley to connect Chemung and Steuben counties and improve our economy, quality of life and environment.


When: Thursday, March 1, 2018, 6:30 – 8:30pm

Where: Big Flats Town Hall Second Floor Board Conference Room


Please join us to learn about and comment on the Coalition’s vision and plans for the river valley that connects Chemung and Steuben Counties. We ask you to review the plan and discover the many present recreational assets that already exist in the valley.

The program includes a PowerPoint presentation by Jim Pfiffer, Executive Director of Chemung River Friends and a discussion and audience question and answer session with a panel of local economic, tourism, outdoor recreation and election officials.


The priority project plan was developed collaboratively by the newly formed Chemung River Valley Coalition. The group includes: Chemung River Friends, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Chemung and Steuben County Planning Departments, Corning and the Finger Lakes, Chemung County Public Works Department, Town of Big Flats, Cornell Cooperative Extension and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Big Flats Plant Materials Center.


The project goals are to leverage the millions dollars of state funds invested in the region’s backbone trails, connect and build our riverfront and enhance the Chemung River Valley to assure a healthy, ecologically-sound infrastructure supporting vibrant, growing communities and eco-tourism.


In addition to Pfiffer, the panel includes:


·        Mike Krusen, Chemung County Deputy Executive and director of Southern Tier Economic Growth.

·        Nicolette Wagoner, Commissioner of the Chemung County Planning Department/Elmira Chemung Transportation Council.

·        Edward Fairbrother, Supervisor, Town of Big Flats.

·        Scott A. Shaw, Associate Planner I with the Chemung County Planning Department/Elmira Chemung Transportation Council; President, Friends of the Catharine Valley Trail.

·        Kris West, Finger Lakes Land Trust, Senior Field Representative for property easements and river land trust protection in Chemung County.

·        Kevin Costello, President of the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau and created the Upper James River Water Trail in Virginia.


Please join us to learn more about the project and to share your thought, ideas and concerns.

For more information, contact Jim Pfiffer, 607-846-2242 or


We are all on this canoe trip together.

Let’s paddle in the same direction.


Thank you,


pfiffer signature


Jim Pfiffer


Feb 1. Cut your electric fees, help the environment and support Chemung River Friends

Solar farm on farm field near the Town of Baldwin, Chemung County, NY

The public can learn how to get free solar energy, protect the environment and reduce utility bills at a 6 p.m., Feb. 1 event at the Steele Memorial Library on Church Street in downtown Elmira.

Chemung River Friends is sponsoring the event in partnership with Solstice, a nonprofit organization that helps connect the public to free solar energy. Attendees will learn how they reduce their electric bills, by using solar energy savings, without installing solar cells on their rooftops or properties.

Switching to solar energy reduces pollution from fossil fuels burned to produce electricity, reduces global warming and protects rives and environment.

For each person who attends the event and signs up for solar energy, Solstice will make a $100 donation to River Friends, said Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer.

"You buy into the solar energy and you reduce pollution, improve the environment, cut your utility bill, support River Friends and it doesn’t cost you a dime,” Pfiffer added.

The free solar energy comes from a solar array built in 2017 on 11 acres of former farmland on Chemung Road in the Town of Baldwin. It was built by Delaware River Solar a company that develops, builds, and operates community solar projects (called solar gardens or farms) throughout New York State.

"We talk to people every day who have wanted to go solar for years, but have never been able to. It means the world to us to be able to connect these folks to our local community solar gardens." Said Sean Hutton, Solstice's Field Operations Manager

During the 10-minute presentation Hutton and his coworkers will explain how electric utility users can receive a 10 percent cut in monthly fees from an electric utility provider. There is no signup fee and customers can opt out of the plan at any time and at no charge.

Each customer is assigned a portion of the solar farm solar cells based on the customer’s annual electric usage. State laws allow that electricity to be sold to the utility, which in turn gives the solar farm customers a 10 percent cut in their monthly electric fees.

Please join River Friends at this event to learn more about solar energy and how the public can reduce its utility bills and help the environment and Chemung River Friends.

For more information contact Jim Pfiffer 607-846-2242 or or Sean Hutton 607-398-0597

Paddle with Scouts during their four-day river journey

In preparation for the trip, the scouts learned canoe, kayak and water safety basics while paddling on the Park Station Lake in Erin. Photo provided by Boy Scout Troop 43.

Nearly 30 Boy Scouts and their adult troop leaders are about to do a four-day, 77-mile canoe trip down the Chemung and Susquehanna rivers to celebrate the same trip Scouts in the troop made 50 years ago.

The adventure for Boy Scout Troop 43 of Pine City begins at 6:30 a.m. Aug. 31 at the Dunn Field Boat Launch in Elmira and ends in the late afternoon Sept. 3 in Tunkhannock on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Elmira City Manager Michael Collins and other elected officials will be on hand to wish the troop well and see them off.

Along the way, the 21 scouts and six adults will camp, fish, work on merit badges and clean up litter. They will sleep on a river island, fish for supper and learn more about the rivers and themselves.

The trip commemorates a similar trip the 76-year-old scout troop did 50 years ago. You can watch a video about that trip on Facebook.

Four of the scouts will paddle kayaks; the rest of the boys will use fiberglass canoes. Everyone will carry all their gear, food and water. Volunteers will meet the scouts in Tunkhannock and transport them back to Elmira in vehicles. The public is invited to bring their own canoes and kayaks and paddle with the troop for a few hours, an afternoon or the entire day.

It’s a great opportunity to see what beautiful waterways we have here in our backyards that we can easily access any day of the week,” said Ed Burrows, troop committee chairman for the scouts. “We’ll be paddling two different waterways with different views and river conditions, so we’re getting a double treat.”

The troop, which ranges from 11 to 58 years old, is doing the commemorative trip in partnership with Chemung River Friends, which helped plan the trip, provided maps and will paddle with the scouts during some of its adventure. River Friends donated four tree saplings that the scouts will plant along the rivers improve the environment and to thank nature for the trip.

The scouts will discover the thrills, recreation and education that are the perks of a multi-day canoe trip,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “The boys will learn more about themselves – their skills, limits, fears and their connection to nature. Along the way they will learn how people interact with and affect the environment, and likely see signs -- good and bad -- of these interactions.”

The scouts will gain first-hand knowledge and experience in paddling, camping and starting camp fires, the water cycle, wildlife and how rivers work.

One of the scouts, working on his cooking merit badge, will be in charge of meals for an entire day, said Troop 43 Scoutmaster Brett Moore.

He will be in charge of planning, preparing and cooking the meal and making sure all the dishes are done,” said Moore who is paddling with his 12-year-old son and Boy Scout, Neal. “The camp will be his kitchen.”

The trip is an opportunity for the scouts to discover adventure in their own backyard, said Moor, a science teacher at Elmira’s Notre Dame High School.

It’s great to travel around the state or country, but it’s also great to know that you can go to Dunn Field and paddle the river to Pennsylvania and challenge yourself physically and mentally along the way,” he added.

The trip includes a Sunday evening tour of the historic French Asylum, the site of a former settlement that Marie Antoinette and her royal French family had planned to escape to during the French Revolution in 1789.

The scouts will be paddling and camping in hammocks and tents along the same routes used long ago by Native Americans who lived, canoed and fished along the rivers.

We like that history plays into this trip, not only the 50th anniversary, but the history of rivers and communities along the rivers,” Burrows said. “The rivers were the source of transportation for the Native Americans and earlier settlers.”

While the scouts will cook meals along the way, they welcome any additional dishes-to-pass, at their stopovers, from good people along the way.

We invite the public, parents or any sympathetic organizations out there to join us at our campsites and we welcome home-cooked food, sweets or anything you would like to bring a troop of hungry Boy Scouts,” Burrows said.

It’s an expedition that the scouts will likely never forget. Burrows hopes that some of the scouts will continue the paddle tradition and organize a 2067 paddle to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the troop’s original 120-mile paddle in 1966.

We want to keep the river and scout history alive,” Burrows said. “It’s a nice tradition.”

Trip itinerary:

  • Day 1, Thursday Aug. 31, 6:30 a.m. (22 miles): Meet at Dunn Field Boat Launch on the Chemung River on Elmira’s Southside for start of the trip. Paddle to Tozier’s Landing on the Susquehanna River in Athens for lunch, and then on to Hornbrook State Park in Ulster to camp.

  • Day 2, Friday, Sep. 1 (20 miles): Breakfast, break camp and on the water by 7 a.m. Lunch at Wysox Boat Launch on the Susquehanna River in Bradford County Pennsylvania and on to the French Azilum campground in Bradford County, Pa. to camp. 20 miles.

  • Day 3, Saturday, Sept. 2 (16 miles): Breakfast, break camp and on the water by 7 a.m. Lunch location to be decided along the way. Camp on a river island in the river in Black Walnut Village around 3 p.m. 16 miles.

  • Day 4, Sunday, Sept. 3 (19 miles): Breakfast, break camp on the water by 7 a.m. Lunch to be decided along the way and end up at Tunkhannock riverside boat launch and park around 4 p.m. Return to Elmira by vehicles. 19 miles

For more information:

  • Troop 43 Scoutmaster Brett Moore: Scoutmaster 607-215-5647.

  • Troop 43 Troop Committee Chairman Ed Burrows, 607-738-2283 (cell), 607-733-0932 (home) or

  • Chemung River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer, 607-846-2242 (work), 607-331-3953 (cell) or

You can view a video of the 1966 trip on Facebook at:

Take a river hike and learn how to combat invasive species

The emerald ash borer is threatening southern tier ash trees.

Chemung River Friends is sponsoring a Chemung River trail hike in West Elmira from 6 to 7:30 p.m., July 13 to teach participants about invasive species threatening the river environment.

The free hike is part of New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week, which helps to teach the public about invasive species -- insects, plants and animals – and what the public can do to reduce the spread of these organisms.

Invasive species can reduce productivity of agricultural lands, impact the diversity of nature, reduce wildlife habitat and limit recreational activities,” said Carrick Palmer, a River Friends summer intern and Environmental Studies senior t the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, who will be leading the hike.

The emerald ash borers and hemlock woolly adelgid kill our trees; noxious plants, such as giant hogweed, and disease organisms, such as the West Nile virus, affect human health; and Japanese stilt grass, swallow-wort vine, phragmites and Hydrilla are invasive plants capable of changing New York’s forests, meadows, wetlands and lakes, said New York State Department of Conservation officials.

The hike participants will see firsthand the problems that invasive Japanese Knotweed is causing along the river, as it chocks out other native plants.

On the plus, side the hikers will enjoy a leisurely walk, enjoy scenic views of the river and likely encounter some river wildlife, paddlers and anglers using the river.

This is a great way for a family to enjoy outdoor exercise, learn more about our local environment and what we can do as individuals and communities to reduce invasive species,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer.

Participants are asked to meet in the parking lot behind the Town of Elmira Town Hall 1255 W. Water St. in West Elmira. The easy and less-than-one-mile hike is on a hard packed soil trail on mostly flat terrain.

If you go, wear hiking boots, sneakers or hard soled shoes. Bring bug spray, water and snacks. No pets, no smoking and no alcohol. Cell phones can be used for photographs, but no calls or texting.

For more information and to register for the hike, contact Carrick Palmer at

2017 River Friends public eco-recreation and cleanup events

River Clean-Ups: 

Keep checking for new River Clean-Up dates. 

The Riverside Patriots is a group of friends and coworkers who joined forces three years ago to adopt and clean boat launches. The group, a partner with Chemung River Friends, hopes to expand this year and is looking for more volunteers.

Volunteers are asked to provide their own transportation. Car pooling is encouraged.

Helping with cleanups is a good way to meet the regulars and see what the cleanups are all about,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “You have fun, with good people and you improve the environment. Not bad, for a few hours of fresh air adventure.”

The Riverside Patriots do seven cleanups, each one on the second Saturday of each month, at 9:30 a.m. until noon, from April through October, weather permitting, said Brian Layton, of Columbia Cross Roads, Pa., one of the group’s founders.  "We start at Dunn Field boat launch at 9:30 then we move to Fitches Bridge, then Miners/William Smith boat launch. Sometimes we stop at other spots in between depending on how many volunteers we get. Any cancellations and contact info will be on our facebook page (Riverside Patriots) or contact me Brian at," said Layton.

We like to see kids involved, but we ask that they be accompanied by an adult,” Layton said.

August 12, 9:30 a.m. to noon

September 9, 9:30 a.m. to noon

October 14, 9:30 a.m. to noon

Guided public paddles: 
Chemung River Friends sponsors guided kayak and canoe trips in partnership with Southern Tier Kayak Tours of Ithaca. Each trip costs $25 per person and includes a kayak or canoe, life vest, paddles, guides, bus transportation, river squirt guns and plenty of fun. The trips are 3-7 miles long (2-3 hours) and feature a safety talk, basic paddling instructions and a stop halfway along the river to stretch your legs and explore.

Along the way, River Friends provides educational talks about river plants and animals, history, local lore and river tales.

The paddles are held in the rain, but will be cancelled if there is lightning or high water.

We stress safety. You must wear a buckled life jacket (provided) at all times.

Each paddle is limited to 23 customers and four guides; and is filled on a first-come-first serve basis. To register, contact Southern Tier Kayak Tours at 607-220-3642 or

Half of price of each trip is financed by River Friends through a Xerox Foundation grant.

The scheduled paddles are: 

• Aug. 31, 6 to 8:30 p.m.: from Fitch’s Bridge Boat Launch, Big Flats, to the Grove Street Boat Launch, Elmira.

Chemung dam reservoirs paddles

Paddle three of the five reservoirs located behind manmade dams in Chemung County, guided by Chemung River Friends staff and volunteers. Learn how and why the dams were built and explore and learn about the reservoirs and their wetlands. Fee: $10/person. Provide your own canoe or kayak, life vests and transportation.

  • July 12: 6 to 8 p.m.: guided paddle on the Hoffman Street Dam reservoir, Big Flats. Mallory Barrow talk  about wetlands
  • Aug. 17, 6 to 8 p.m.: guided paddle on the Marsh Creek Dam reservoir, Erin. Mallory Barrow talk about wetlands.


2017 Audubon-River Friends Nature Strollers schedule

The Audubon-River Friends Nature Stroller walks are easy and short (less than a half-mile), family-oriented walks designed for children, toddlers in strollers, parents and grandparents; to help them discover places for outdoor recreation and a chance to get back in touch with nature and stewardship of our environment.

All walks begin at 10 a.m. and end by noon. Adult guides talk about environmental issues as the walk progresses. Each walk includes binoculars, snacks, water and a visit by a live or stuffed animal native to the area.

The walks are led by Chemung River Friends, funded by the Chemung Valley Audubon Society and organized through the Horseheads Family Resource Center.

Please wear sneakers, hiking boots or comfortable shoes (no flip flops). Bring sun screen and insect repellent. The walks are on dirt and paved trails and grassy levees and meadows. The walks are rain-or-shine events and are only cancelled for lightening storms.

For more information contact, Joan Ostrander 607-483-1067, or Jim Pfiffer, 607-846-2242 or

More information: Chemung River Friends 607-846-2242 or

Save the rain from your roof and help the rivers

A rain barrel can be beautiful as well as useful!

The rain on your roof hurts our rivers. Heavy rain and roof snowmelt is called storm water and it pollutes our waterways, erodes river banks and increases flooding.

Homeowners can help reduce storm water runoff and lower their water bills using rain barrels to catch the rain that pours down a home’s downspout.

The public is invited to learn about rain barrels -- and get a chance to win one -- from 6:30-7:30 p.m., June 13 at the Elmira Garden Club, 426 Fulton St., (behind the gymnasium at St. Mary’s Church). The program will be held inside the historic club house.

Nikole Watts, storm water educator with Chemung County Storm Water Coalition, will explain how to use rain barrels and their benefits to the user and the environment. At the end of the class an audience member will win a rain barrel in a drawing. The program is free.

The rain, sleet and melted snow that flows from roofs, parking lots and roads during storms, travels across the land -- picking up pollutants, trash, pet wastes, lawn chemicals and toxins as it flows downhill to a river. The fast moving storm water erodes stream and river banks and dumps the soil it picks up, along the way, into the river.

Homeowners can reduce storm water runoff by catching it and saving it in a rain barrel and recycling it on gardens and lawns or to wash your pets. You can learn more about these options at the presentation.

The public is invited to tour the garden club’s gardens and meet and talk to attending club members and view the club house rain barrel. Information on memberships and club activities will be available and club members will serve light refreshments. There is a large parking lot adjacent to the clubhouse.

The program is an environmental education partnership between the Elmira Garden Club, Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District and Chemung River Friends.

For more information, contact Garden Club Vice President Livie Trexler at 607-731-4365 or

River Patriots first River Clean-up of 2017 Saturday

Volunteers are needed to help with the first Chemung River cleanup of the season at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Dunn Field Boat Launch in Elmira.

That’s when the Riverside Patriots group and Chemung River Friends will begin their annual trash and litter cleanups along the Chemung River. The Riverside Patriots is a group of friends and coworkers who joined forces three years ago to adopt and clean boat launches. The group, a partner with Chemung River Friends, hopes to expand this year and is looking for more volunteers.

After cleaning the Dunn Field Boat Launch the cleanup group will drive to the Fitch’s Bridge and Minier’s/Sen. Smith boat launches in Big Flats to clean those sites. Volunteers are asked to provide their own transportation. Car pooling is encouraged.

Helping with the first cleanup of the year is a good way to meet the regulars and see what the cleanups are all about,” said River Friends Executive Director Jim Pfiffer. “You have fun, with good people and you improve the environment. Not bad, for a few hours of fresh air adventure.”

The Riverside Patriots do seven cleanups, each one on the second Saturday of each month, at 9:30 a.m. until noon, from April through October, weather permitting,” said Brian Layton, of Columbia Cross Roads, Pa., one of the group’s founders.

We like to see kids involved, but we ask that they be accompanied by an adult,” Layton said.

If the Riverside Patriots gains volunteers, it plans to expand its cleanups to the Grove Street and Hudson Street boat launches in Elmira.

We are happy to see more and more people using and enjoying the river, but that means more trash to be picked up,” Pfiffer said. “It is a constant problem and we are able to keep cleaning the river, thanks to volunteers like the Riverside Patriots.”

Most of the litter and trash will be picked up by hand and carried in trash bag. Gloves, trash bags and water are provided by the Riverside Patriots.

For more information e-mail Brian Layton, or visit the group’s Facebook page (type in full name Riverside Patriots). If the cleanup is canceled due to bad weather, it will be posted on the Riverside Patriots’ Facebook page.

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