In 2022, Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the New York State Canal Corporation (NYSCC) launched the Empire State Trail Town program to showcase the value of the Empire State Trail, the nation’s longest multi-use trail as an economic driver and a catalyst for community building for trailside communities.
Back in March, the Village of Brockport was selected as the “pilot community” to launch the Empire State Trail Town program. With a long history of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy, a vibrant main street just off the Erie Canalway Trail, and a welcome center for canal and trail users, the village demonstrated many of the characteristics of a trail town from the start. Over the course of the program, PTNY helped Brockport take a closer look at how these assets could serve as a means to increase trail-related tourism and visitation, and determine what changes could be made to improve the bicyclist and pedestrian experience in the community and along the trail.
Just a few of the steps PTNY took during the year to set the village up for continued success as a Trail Town included:
- Creating a leadership structure dedicated to carrying out the roles and responsibilities of this work;
- Hosting a community bike ride and developing a model for Walk!Bike!Brockport to carry out for planning future community rides;
- Providing support for village-led grants to support outdoor recreation amenities within the Village;
- Promoting Brockport and the amenities it has to offer through social media, e-newsletters, print media, and TV interviews;
- Certifying 12 qualifying businesses and attractions as Bike Friendly NY and providing the groundwork for certifying others;
- Developing a Trail Town webpage on PTNY’s http://www.cycletheeriecanal.com, with resources and an interactive map of the Village;
- And recruiting a new volunteer group to adopt the Erie Canalway Trail through Brockport.
Now, nine months later, PTNY has released an Action Plan for the Village of Brockport to continue to develop and evolve as a Trail Town. PTNY worked closely with the village through an intensive six-month process to evaluate existing conditions, develop recommendations and strengthen community capacity. Through monthly steering committee meetings, a community survey, public listening session, and on-the-ground assessment, PTNY found that Brockport’s strengths lie in its dedicated residents and community groups, public events, and high quality amenities and services for trail users. The research also identified the opportunity to develop stronger relationships between businesses and the trail, enhance on-road bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and improve promotion of the town and its resources through physical signage and through social media and other electronic media.
Informed by this analysis, PTNY proposed a set of eleven recommendations. Six of these identified improvements and modifications to physical infrastructure, and five sought to address promotion, programming and policies in the village. Key recommendations for strengthening the Brockport’s ties to the trail included:
With this action plan in hand, the Village of Brockport is poised to capitalize on its designation as the first Empire State Trail Town and take full advantage of the Empire State Trail/Erie Canalway Trail as a destination for dynamic visitors from around the world and a valued community resource for residents.