One of the more memorable stretches of the Erie Canalway Trail runs between Pendleton and Lockport in Niagara County – and it’s about to get even better. The trail through these communities stands out largely thanks to the effort of Trail Keepers, a group of more than 40 volunteers coordinated by green-thumbed Lockport resident Sandy Guzzetti. At many of these trailheads in this stretch, what were once nondescript trail access points, flowering gardens with re-purposed bicycle part sculptures have sprouted up.
On Monday, August 19, Sandy and her intrepid team will get even more trail to beautify – as a new stretch of trail between Fisk Road and Tonawanda Creek Road in Pendleton is set to open. This stretch, constructed as part of the $200 million Empire State Trail, will result in more than 7 miles of continuous off-road trail between Amherst and Lockport. As a result of this work, more than 95% of the Canalway Trail in Niagara County will be on off-road trails. The new stretch of trail will connect trail users with sites such as the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village in Amherst — where a Smithsonian Institute exhibition on waterways will open in October — and the Lockport Locks District, home of the historic Flight of Five.
While many groups provide important regular maintenance for the Canalway Trail, Sandy and her group go above and beyond to ensure that Niagara County is home to a beautiful and welcoming stretch of Canalway Trail. The bicycle art the group installs and the flowers that they plants contribute to what are surely among the most memorable trailside gardens users encounter. Sandy’s idea to install the bicycle art came from the fact that many trail users riding from local streets and neighborhoods had trouble finding trailheads along this stretch of trail. The brightly painted sculptures made from old bicycles seemed like an appropriate and unique way to highlight these trailheads. In addition to the bicycle art and flower gardens, Sandy’s group is working with a local Boy Scout troop to plant eight trees along the trail. Sandy and her team also help keep the trail beautiful by making regular trips out to the trail to pick up trash and debris and report issues such as vandalism to the local Canal Corporation maintenance crew.
As part of the new stretch of trail being built, artifacts from the canal’s industrial past are being displayed at different overlooks. These artifacts help bring the history that is such a core part of the Erie Canalway Trail experience right onto the trail itself. As part of telling the story of the history of this local stretch of canal, the Trail Keepers have started offering a regular Pendleton Portage Bike Tour, which follows the route of the Pendleton Portage, where for almost two full years those who traveled or shipped freight along the Erie Canal had to disembark from canal boats and unload freight at the bottom of Lockport’s Flight of Five Locks and travel overland through Pendleton until they reached Tonawanda Creek, where they would be able to finish their trip by the Erie Canal’s waterway. This tour includes an artifact scavenger hunt on the last half, and ends, like all good bike tours, with ice cream at Uncle G’s Ice Cream, a Bike-Friendly New York certified business.
Sandy Guzzetti and her team (and her dog Ryder, who provides regular trail reports!) are a great example of how the Erie Canalway Trail is a centerpiece of the community and a source of pride for many of its regular users. The thousands of visitors to the trail in Niagara County this summer will certainly be very appreciative of the hard work of this Adopt-a-Trail group. For regular updates on their unmatched gardens and happening along the trail in Niagara County, follow the Trail Keepers on Facebook.
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!