Trail News that ROCKS!

Yes, you heard that right. This year’s budget ROCKS when it comes to multi-use trails.

THE OPENER

$77 M in funding has been awarded to complete the remaining 20% of the Erie Canalway Trail. That alone is great news, and we all deserve some applause as PTNY’s Close the Gaps campaign played a critical role in setting the conceptual framework for a fully-connected trail from Buffalo to Albany, as well as ensuring that completing New York’s marquee trail stayed front and center in the minds of legislators and the Governor. Moreover, the fact that the announcement comes in the first year of the Erie Canal Bicentennial is fitting, as trails and other recreation will surely play a central role in the Canal’s next 200 years.

So far, this year’s budget performance is rockin – but WAIT, there’s more. What we thought would be the headliner is only the opening act. That’s right, even completing the ECT, which will be the nation’s longest multi-use trail, plays second fiddle to the next budget performer.

THE HEADLINER

Introducing the Empire State Trail …

LOUD APPLAUSE…..CLAPPING….HAPPY CRYING….FAINTING

The Empire State Trail will be the nation’s longest state trail system – imagine a 750-mile “T” laid sideways across New York State. In addition to filling in the remaining gaps in the Buffalo to Albany Erie Canalway Trail, the Empire State Trail will complete the Hudson River Valley Greenway, currently 40% complete as an off-road route, between NYC and the Southern Adirondacks. Finally, on-road enhancements to Bike Route 9 will connect the trail to the Canadian border, completing the T. All totaled, 350 miles of new off-road trail will be constructed.

The trail will make New York State a destination for outdoor recreation and heritage tourism, connecting a rich network of parks, historic sites, and cultural amenities. The trip-planning opportunities are endless….and EPIC.

How about a “historic” ride from New York City, over the Walkway Over the Hudson, to the Waterford Flight of five locks at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers? Or maybe a Finger Lakes to the Adirondacks wine and cheese tour? And of course, the classic “15 miles on the Erie Canal” ride will now be possible anywhere along the 360 mile Erie Canalway Trail without worry of competing with traffic!

While the sheer awesomeness of the EST performance has us out of our seats, for many, Empire State Trail high notes will take the form of a lunchtime walk or weekend ride on a new trail segment within their own community. With hundreds of communities and millions of New Yorkers living along the route, the EST will leave a lasting impression on local economies, public health, and the State’s environment.

THE ENCORE

For an Empire State Trail encore, Governor Cuomo also announced plans for an Empire State Trail smartphone app, and other resources to encourage trail use. And then there’s the effect that the trail system will have on other local and regional trails throughout the state. Connecting these trails to the main route will add another layer to the jam. And think of all the new people that will get outside because of a new trail connection.

A STANDING APPLAUSE

Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature know a good groove when they hear one, and we’re extremely grateful for their support for the Empire State Trail. Thank them with a letter or call, or share a picture or story from the trail – make sure to hashtag #NYTrailTales and #EmpireStateTrail and we’ll be sure they see it!

ROCK (AND ROLL) ON New York!

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Erie Canalway Trail Now 80% Complete

Parks & Trails New York and the Canalway Trails Assocation New York have released the annual Closing the Gaps report. The big news: the Erie Canalway Trail is now 80% complete as an off road route!

With 288 miles now open to the public, the Erie Canalway Trail is well on its way to becoming the longest continuous intrastate multi-use trail in the nation. Of course the ECT is already a world-class destination for cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts, and an important resource for more than 3.7 million New Yorkers living within the 14 counties in which the trail is located.

The Closing the Gaps report details progress made toward a completed, off-road trail in 2015.

Highlights include:

TAB 14-42I and TAB 14-49C 025

New trail section in Lockport

• The NYS Canal Corporation completed construction of 5.5 miles of new trail, from Lockport to Pendleton, addressing a large part of what was an eight-mile gap between Amherst and Lockport. The remaining 2.5 miles of trail are under design. When the gap is complete, it will result in more than 130 miles of continuous off-road trail in western New York.

• The Village of Green Island in Albany County received $44,000 in Canal Greenway funding through the state’s Consolidated Funding Application (CFA) Program to complete an important link in the ECT from the Black Bridge to Cannon Street, a distance of 1000 feet.

• In Amsterdam, construction began on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, a $16.5M pedestrian bridge that will connect Amsterdam’s Southside and Erie Canalway Trail to the city’s downtown and Riverlink Park. The bridge is being funded by the Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act of 2005. In June, federal, state and local officials announced they had secured an additional $1 million to fund artistic elements on the bridge, including a ripple design along the deck that will mimic the Mohawk River below and two circular plazas that will extend from the main span. Besides providing great views, these plazas will be large enough to accommodate performances.

• In Wayne County, in the Town of Galen, two new sections of stone dust trail have been finished, connecting Lock Berlin Park with Black Brook Park, and on to Old Route 31. Wayne County provided the funding for the project. This section stretches 1.5 miles. Along with funded gap sections that are under development in the Town of Lyons and the Village of Clyde, the Lyons to Clyde gap has been reduced to 4.5 miles.

• Also in Wayne County, a working group has been formed, with officials from various levels of government and local non-profits directing planning and design efforts for unfinished trail sections. The working group has also identified a provisional route for the future Erie Canalway Trail through Wayne County, utilizing off-road railroad corridors and on-road connections.

There still is much work to do: 72 miles of Erie Canalway Trail are unfinished. For approximately 20 of those miles there is an identified source of funding and work is programmed to start within the next three years. For an additional 53 miles of trail, an estimated $40 million in funding is needed for corridor purchase and/or design and construction.PTNY-Trail-Priority-Funding-03302016small2

Since the “Closing the Gaps” campaign was launched in 2010 by Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY), in conjunction with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, interest in completing the Erie Canalway Trail among citizens, community leaders, and local, state, and federal government officials continues to grow.

PTNY and partners across the state will continue to push for trail completion so that Canal communities and all of New York State can fully realize the ECT’s potential as an internationally known tourism destination, recreational resource, and economic generator.

View the report here.

 

 

Trail Ambassadors Establish New Post in Chittenango

The Canalway Trail Ambassador program recently expanded to the trail in Central New York. Already, one of the new Ambassadors based at Chittenango Landing has logged more than 15 hours on the trail.

Trail Ambassadors like Chittenango’s Dave Kellogg are volunteers who provide a warm welcome to Erie Canalway Trail users and offer assistance with directions, local attractions and lodging, and other issues that may arise on the trail. Dave’s work with the Old Erie Canal Working Group,which works to promote the trail and Canal corridor to both locals and visitors, served as his introduction to the Ambassador program.

Dave’s duties as an Ambassador has allowed him to meet cyclists and trail users from the surrounding communities, other states, and across the world. Dave also contributed to this year’s Cycle the Erie Canal (CTEC) bike tour by creating temporary trail signage directing CTEC riders to the Fayetteville Feeder Canal Trail and to local businesses. He was there to answer questions about the Feeder Canal, and reports that about one-third of the tour cyclists stopped at the trail juncture.

Last week, Dave met Peter from Dublin, Ireland. In a perfect example of Trail Ambassadorship, Dave engaged Peter in conversation and found out he has been cycling non-stop for 3 1/2 years, with recent trips through New Zealand and Australia. Before allowing him to head off on his way – next stops Buffalo, Montreal, Maine, Boston, and back to NYC – Dave showed him around Canastota and the village’s Canal Town Museum.

The Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY), in collaboration with Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation, initiated the Canalway Trail Ambassador Program in order to provide a “presence” on the trail and enhance the experiences of trail users.

In 2008, Ambassadors began riding on a segment of trail in Schenectady County as a pilot project under the auspices of the Friends of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, as the Canalway Trail is known in this area. In 2012, the program expanded to the Rochester area. The new Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum/Old Erie Canal group is the first Ambassador program in Central New York.

To learn more about the program and join the ranks of Canalway Trail Ambassadors, email PTNY at canaltrail@ptny.org or call 518-434-1583.

Dave Kellogg

Dave Kellogg 2

Our eye is on the prize – a completed Erie Canalway Trail

The Erie Canalway Trail is almost 80% complete and on its way to becoming the longest, continuous intrastate multi-use trail in the nation. But the trail can’t realize its full potential as an internationally known tourism destination until it’s finished from Buffalo to Albany. PTNY’s fifth annual “Closing the Gaps” report recaps the accomplishments of 2014 and outlines the status of the 79 miles of trail left to finish.

Erie-Canalway-Trail-Progress-2014Each year PTNY and the Canalway Trails Association New York release a “Closing the Gaps” report to update canal corridor communities and national, state, and local decision makers on recent progress and current trail status as well as underscore the need for the resources and political support to ensure the Erie Canalway Trail is quickly finished.

Since PTNY and the Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY) launched the “Closing the Gaps” campaign in 2010 in conjunction with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, interest in completing the Erie Canalway Trail among citizens, community leaders, and local, state, and federal government officials continues unabated. Under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, more than 32 miles of trail have been rehabilitated, or constructed or are planned or under construction.

In 2014 alone:

  • The NYS Canal Corporation completed three miles of new trail in the City of Rome in Oneida County.
  • Work began on the eight-mile gap between Amherst and Lockport in western New York. Under the direction of the NYS Canal Corporation, construction will begin in early 2015 on five miles of new trail. The remaining three miles of trail are under design. When the gap is complete, it will result in more than 130 miles of continuous off-road trail in western New York.
  • Funding was awarded for nine miles of new trail in Wayne, Herkimer, and Montgomery Counties. Funding awards from the federal Transportation Enhancements and Transportation Alternatives Programs will be used to construct three new trail segments: one mile in the Wayne County Village of Clyde, two miles in the Town of German Flatts in Herkimer County, and six miles between South Amsterdam and Pattersonville in Montgomery County.

There still is much work to do: 79 miles of Erie Canalway Trail are still unfinished. Twenty-five of those miles have an identified source of funding and are programmed for work to start within the next three years. For 54 miles of trail, there is still no identified source of funding and/or right-of-way issues present challenges to defining or developing a trail route.

However, opportunities such as the state’s CFA grants program and a strong commitment to closing the gaps at all levels of government, make the goal of having the entire 79 miles of trail under construction or in design by the 2017 bicentennial of the start of construction on the original Erie Canal possibly within reach.

Canal Corporation completes two projects in Rochester area

The New York State Canal Corporation in September announced the completion of two multi-million dollar infrastructure projects in greater Rochester – a rehabilitated eight mile segment of the Erie Canalway Trail from Monroe Avenue in the Town of Pittsford to Main Street in the Village of Fairport and a newly constructed section of canal wall, also in Fairport.

“We are proud to unveil the new improvements to the canal wall and Canalway Trail in two of New York’s most iconic canal communities—Pittsford and Fairport,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “The Erie Canal and Erie Canalway Trail have proven to be economic engines for New York and by ensuring our infrastructure is in good repair we can continue growing their impact on New York’s economy.”

The eight miles of upgraded trail includes rehabilitated stone dust and asphalt trail surfaces, drainage and safety improvements and the installation of new directional and informational signage. Additionally, new retaining walls were constructed along the edge of the canal at Schoen Place in Pittsford and O’Connor Road in Fairport in order to widen the trail at these locations.

This $2.3 million trail improvement project was funded under the Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond that was approved by the voters in 2005.  The project was constructed by Ramsey Constructors from Lakeville, New York.   

 

In downtown Fairport, the wall along the northern side of the canal was reconstructed. The $2.72 million project replaced 420 feet of existing stone wall with soldier piles and precast concrete panels to create a safer and more stable wall for boaters to tie up alongside. A one-half mile portion of the Erie Canalway Trail from Parker Street to Cobbs Lane was also reconstructed.  The project was completed by Keeler Construction Company of Albion, NY.

The trail between Pittsford to Fairport is one of the most popular segments along the statewide Erie Canalway Trail system linking the Hudson River and Lake Erie. A trail traffic count conducted by Parks & Trails New York and the Canal Corporation in 2012 in that area estimated an annual trail traffic volume of 212,000 persons.

The Pittsford to Fairport Erie Canalway Trail segment is part of the statewide, multi-use, Erie Canalway Trail linking the Hudson River and Lake Erie. More than three-quarters of the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail from Buffalo to Albany is now complete. For more information, please visit. www.canals.ny.gov/trails/about.html.

 

Erie Canalway Trail delivers big

The Erie Canalway is making a difference and PTNY’s new study has the data to prove it. The first comprehensive study of the Erie Canalway Trail, recently released by Parks & Trails New York (PTNY), found that the Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) experiences more than 1.58 million visits per year. Spending by ECT visitors generates approximately $253 million in economic impact and $28.5 million in taxes and supports 3,440 jobs in the local economies within the trail corridor. The study was commissioned by PTNY and funded in-part by the New York State Canal Corporation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

According to the study, it is overnight stays that have the greatest impact on visitor spending. While overnight visitors to the ECT constitute only 18.25% of the total volume of visits, they generate 84% of overall spending, primarily for lodging and bars and restaurants.

The study also includes surveys of more than 500 trail users which reveal much about the demographics and preferences of Erie Canalway Trail visitors that can be of value for future marketing efforts. Typical users of the ECT are employed members of Generation X (ages 30-49) who live within five miles of the trail. They have at least a college degree and a household income equal to or slightly above the state’s 2012 median household income of $57,683. They spend on average $26.37 per person per visit.

Responses from trail visitors also confirmed that the ECT is an important contributor to the health and quality of life of those who live near it. More than half of those surveyed use the trail at least once a week for 30-60 minutes, most for health and fitness. Almost everyone surveyed said the trail had a positive effect on their well-being.

Information from the 22% of those surveyed who specifically identified themselves as vacationers provided additional data that tourism promotion agencies, chambers of commerce and local businesses can use to better target that market segment. Especially important is the finding that 96% of vacationers said the ECT was a strong factor in their decision to visit or stay in the area and it was the bicycling and the natural scenery that attracted them most. Typical ECT vacationers spend on average $939 per person per visit and stay at least three nights in a hotel or motel. 

PTNY will use the study to support its “Close the Gaps Campaign,” as a benchmark for future economic impact studies and to inform its soon-to-be launched multi-faceted Erie Canalway Trail marketing program aimed at adventure travelers and national and international cyclists. PTNY also hopes that the positive economic results will instill government, business, and tourism officials with the confidence to invest in additional ECT marketing, promotion, economic development, and trail enhancement efforts. 

Read the full report here.

Our Ability finds a way: 2nd annual journey along the Erie Canal

our abilityIn July, Our Ability, a non-profit advocacy organization for people with disabilities, completed a 12-day cycle across New York State on the Erie Canalway Trail. Fifteen riders powerfully demonstrated the capabilities of individuals with disabilities on the 350-mile trek.

Our Ability was founded by John Robinson, born a congenital amputee without full arms and legs, and  Doug Hamlin, a 28-year veteran of the software industry who is disabled as a result of an accident. The organization raises awareness and understanding of the capabilities of disabled individuals through inspiring positive video stories and other events.

Robinson was motivated to undertake the first Journey Along the Erie Canal by his wife, Andrea, and two children after receiving a three-wheeled, hand-operated bicycle as a donation. Hamlin joined Robinson for Journey I in 2013 and saw what the ride could symbolize.

This year’s Journey Along the Erie Canal II began in Tonawanda at Niawanda Park and ended in Albany on July 11.  Hamlin and Robinson rode with a core group of 15 cyclists, staying at hotels and motels along the route. By all indications, this summer’s event was even more successful than Journey I. Each day the Our Ability squad was accompanied by between 20 to 50 riders from the local area along with thousands of well-wishers who turned out to support the team as they made their way across the state.

Besides the central goal of raising awareness and promoting advocacy for people with disabilities, Our Ability’s Journey II also showcased the Erie Canalway Trail as a means for people of all abilities to experience living history and outdoor recreation, and reinforced the need for Closing the Gaps that remain in the Canalway Trail. The journey’s finish coincided with the start day of PTNY’s Cycling the Erie Canal ride, which also emphasizes the historic and recreational value of the Erie Canalway Trail.

Our Ability has posted a series of inspiring and entertaining videos from Journey II. Congratulations to this determined group of Canalway Trail End-to-Enders!