A unique section of trail along the Historic Erie Canal is being given extra attention this summer thanks to the efforts of the Erie Canalway Neighbors Association (ECNA). The Oxbow Trail, along the banks of the original Erie Canal, is the newest trail recipient of Adopt-a-Trail program love. The ECNA was originally started by Fairport resident Mike Caswell as a way to clean up the Oxbow Trail. The group now looks forward to ensuring that this local treasure can be enjoyed by all for years to come.
The Oxbow Trail has a unique history. The trail started life as the towpath for the original Erie Canal. However, as the canal was improved and enlarged over the years, the route through that section of Fairport changed, creating what was in effect a small lake. Along the banks of what had been the old canal, boat houses and cottages began to spring up, creating a vacation spot for people from the surrounding area. Many of the cottages were constructed using the wood from decommissioned railroad box cars. In the early 20th century, the vacation cottages began to become year round homes, on land leased from the state. However, as these cottages lacked modern conveniences such as sanitary plumbing, the area was slowly abandoned over the past few decades. The last resident of the Oxbow passed away in 2012, and her cottage burned down two years later.
As a result of years of neglect as the Oxbow was abandoned, the Oxbow trail became overgrown and littered with the debris from the cottages that had lined the waterway. Local neighbors saw the need for cleaning and the potential to energize the local community around this asset. Leading this effort was Mike Caswell and the ECNA. The ECNA partnered with a local Boy Scouts Troop to clean up the debris and make the trail usable again for the general public. As a result of their efforts, the Oxbow trail has been transformed from overgrown and litter-strewn to bucolic and tree lined.
Moving forward, the ECNA will be focusing on mowing the areas on either side of the trail and maintaining the vegetation. A particular focus of the group will be to identify any invasive plants that are found along the trail and ensure that they are properly removed, helping to protect the local ecology of the Oxbow trail. Keep up to date on the work of the ECNA and read more about the history of the Oxbow trail on Mike Caswell’s blog at TheOxbowBlog.wordpress.com.
The Adopt-a-Trail program is managed by Parks & Trails New York with funding from the NYS Canal Corporation. Currently, more than 50 groups participate in regular trail maintenance activities along the NYS Canalway Trail through the Adopt-a-Trail program. Check out the Adopt-a-Trail website to learn more about the program or to join or start a group near you!