Celebrations Begin for Erie Canal Bicentennial

You’re invited! This year marks the 200th anniversary of canal construction and exciting bicentennial events are on tap. You’ll find boat tours, bike rides, festivals, music, and family-friendly activities all year long. Here are a few of the special events taking place; find more at https://eriecanalway.org/explore/events

  • Glass Barge: The Corning Museum of Glass is sponsoring a special GlassBarge, a watercraft that will bringing the story of glassmaking as well as demonstrations to waterfront communities. The barge will visit Fairport Canal Days 6/2-4, Seneca Falls Canal Fest 7/7-9, and the World Canals Conference in Syracuse 9/24 and Baldwinsville 9/26-27.
    www.cmog.org
  • Journey Along the Erie Canal, Jun 28-July 7: A team of riders from Our Ability welcomes cyclists of all abilities to join them for a few hours or several days as they complete their fourth cross-state bike ride along the Erie Canal. Our Ability seeks employment and empowerment for people with disabilities.
    http://www.ourability.com/journey-along-the-erie-canal
  • Water Music, July 2-8: Albany Symphony Orchestra is embarking on a seven-day musical journey on the Erie Canal from Albany to Lockport, presenting seven free waterfront performances of new orchestral works and American favorites to celebrate the Bicentennial of the Erie Canal. Stops include: Albany, Schenectady, Amsterdam, Little Falls, Baldwinsville, Brockport, and Lockport. http://www.albanysymphony.com
  • Lois McClure Legacy Tour, July through October: The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s sailing canal boat Lois McClure will visit ports along the Champlain and Erie Canals. Along the way they will celebrate the vital role of “boatwood” trees such as white oak and white pine that have been essential for centuries in boatbuilding as well as in the forest ecosystem. The schooner will be one of the centerpiece vessels at the 2017 World Canals Conference in Syracuse in September. http://www.lcmm.org/our_fleet/lois_mcclure_schedule.htm
  • Bicentennial Celebration in Rome, July 22: The NYS Canal Corporation is planning an anniversary bash with boats, music, and festivities at Bellamy Harbor Park.
    www.canals.ny.gov
  • World Canals Conference, Syracuse, September 24-28: Events, tours, and presentations will showcase some of the most exciting activities on the world’s waterways. Centering on canals as agents of transformation, WCC2017 brings together hundreds of canal enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world to discuss canals and inland waterways as a means to promote tourism, spur economic and community development, improve environmental quality, and exchange best practices on protection strategies for historic sites.
    www.wcc2017syracuse.com
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No Sitting Around for Kendall Lawn Chair Ladies

The Kendall Lawn Chair Ladies are not your typical lawn chair loungers. In fact, their motto is “Lawn Chair Ladies are the best, they don’t sit like all the rest!” The Kendall Lawn Chair Ladies is a marching and dancing unit made up of Kendall Central School alumni and their friends. The group first convened in 2012 and has participated in several parades and festivals since then. All of their prize money supports Kendall families facing financial hardship.

LawnChairs

The Kendall Lawn Chair Ladies are the newest Adopt-a-Trail group in Western New York.

This past winter, one of their members, Carol Peterson, decided to extend the group’s generosity to the Erie Canalway Trail. She found a 1.5-mile stretch of Erie Canalway Trail in Hulberton, Orleans County that the group could adopt. According to Carol, the trail is an especially important place for the Lawn Chair Ladies. “Two are End-to-Enders, so it is particularly close to our hearts,” she said. Carol, a self-proclaimed cycling enthusiast, completed the trail End-to-End in August of 2015.

Carol’s enthusiasm is reflected in the rest of the group too. Before the threat of snow melted away in early spring, the Kendall Lawn Chair Ladies had already planned their first trailside clean-up event.

As the weather heats up, they plan to continue lending a hand to keeping the Erie Canalway Trail free of trash and debris, so if you’re out on the trail in between Hulberton and Telegraph Roads in Hulberton this summer, chances are good that you’ll see the Kendall Lawn Chair Ladies out in full force.

The Canalway Trail Adopt-a-Trail program includes more than 50 community and civic groups who participate in regular clean-up events across the 524-mile NYS Canalway Trail system. Visit the Adopt-a-Trail page for more information on how you can join a group or adopt a section of trail in your area.

The First End-to-Enders

As both the bicycle and the Erie Canal celebrate their bicentennial this year, we thought it would be fun to highlight one of the earliest bicycle trips taken along the Erie Canal 120 years ago. Earlier this year, Dave Patterson of Missoula, Montana found a detailed travel log of his grandfather’s bicycle trip during the summer of 1897 between Albany and Buffalo and shared it with Parks & Trails New York. “From Albany to Buffalo: An Account of a Pleasant Wheeling Tour Across New York State” describes in detail the sights, route, amenities, and difficulties of the earliest known end-to-end trip along the Erie Canal. To the thousands who have followed in their tracks since then, the experience holds some familiarity.

Austin Patterson and his riding companion Frank Chew left Albany in the early evening of June 21, 1897, with the goal of reaching Buffalo in less than two weeks. Almost immediately, they experienced mechanical issues. Undeterred, they “made a good start on the fine cycle path that extends, with but one poor stretch, clear to Schenectady.” Aside from battling an uncooperative chain, Austin lost a pedal and his tool bag somewhere on the dark trail between Albany and Schenectady. As anyone who knows about the perils of early bicycle touring can attest, these mechanical issues didn’t stop after the first day. Austin faced everything from a stubbornly persistent flat to a crash involving another rider from Utica near Clyde.

Edison Hotel, Schenectady

Schenectady’s Edison Hotel (via Schenectady Daily Gazette)

Similar to today’s experience, Austin and Frank encountered accommodations that varied from the “fine” Edison Hotel in Schenectady (“our money was plenty then,” Austin writes) to the 25-cent-a-night Franklin House in Amsterdam, where Austin writes that he “lost sleep that night on account of mosquitoes or – something.” People living along the route also opened their homes to the touring cyclists, including one memorable host in Clyde, Henry Barton. Austin writes that for only 75 cents, they stayed in a “neat room with a double bed…and in the morning, enjoyed a plentiful country breakfast with amiable Henry B., his large wife, pretty dark-eyed daughter, and bright-faced boy.”

The similarities start to disappear, though, as soon as you read about the food they ate along the way. Now when most touring cyclists seek out a hearty meal to refuel, they eat granola bars, fruit, and carbohydrate-loaded meals like bread and pasta. Almost every day, Austin and Frank subsisted on pastries, cakes, candy, and milk. On June 29, Austin writes that “we reached Palmyra a little after 2 PM. Our dinner had been entirely of cherries, so we got some cake and ice cream to back it up.”

AustinPatterson-itinerary

Austin Patterson’s itinerary from the first documented End-to-End bicycle trip along the Erie Canal in 1897.

Another difference between End-to-End touring in 1897 and 2017 is the route between Buffalo and Albany. While the Erie Canalway Trail did not exist as a 360-mile off-road route in 1897, Austin and Frank did take advantage of a variety of off-road paths. Outside Utica they encountered a “fine cinder path built by local wheelmen.” These private paths appeared across the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide cyclists with a smooth place to ride in an era when paved roads were just starting to make their debut. They usually required club membership or a toll to take advantage of the privilege of riding on the equivalent of a modern-day multi-use path. “In spite of the many placards hinting that those who did not help pay need not ride, we sailed along with easy consciences, believing that as visiting wheelmen we were entitled to all the privileges of guests,” Austin wrote. Other separated paths existed between Albany and Schenectady, in the Mohawk Valley between Little Falls and Herkimer, and an early-day rail-with-trail between the railroad tracks through Mohawk, Ilion, and Frankfort. Today, much of the Erie Canalway Trail uses the abandoned towpath, with cyclists, hikers, runners, and dog-walkers sharing the historic path. In 1897, during the Erie Canal’s heyday, cyclists using the towpath had to contend with a different definition of multi-use. Austin writes that despite taking advantage of a better riding surface than the adjacent roads, “we had to be on our guard against being thrown into the canal by the mule-ropes.”

The most relatable experience Austin documents comes at the end of his trip, 11 days after he left Albany: “the last fourteen-and-a-half miles were asphalt and over this I rode down into the heart of the city of Buffalo—the goal attained at last.”

Click here to read Austin Patterson’s “From Albany to Buffalo. An Account of a Pleasant Wheeling Tour Across New York State”

Do you have an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-End story to share? Visit our website to register as an End-to-Ender and tell us about your journey.

Tuesdays on the Towpath Grows in 2017

Throughout the year, the Canalway Trail system provides nearly 360-miles of multi-use trail for bikers, walkers, and even cross country skiers alike. In the Capital Region and the Syracuse area (Oneida, Madison and Onondaga county), there are a surplus of bike-friendly rail trails, roads and canalway trails. Both areas offer ‘Towpath Tuesday’ programs—an opportunity for cyclists of all abilities to get some exercise, socialize, and appreciate local attractions. If you’re looking to be introduced to summer cycling on the Erie Canal, and other bike friendly trails, the two groups profiled below are a great place to start.

Tuesdays on the Towpath – Madison, Oneida, Onondaga…. and NOW Herkimer and Wayne Counties!

In the spring of 2012, the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum (CLCBM) and the Syracuse Bicycles shop partnered to create a ride group—Tuesdays on the Towpath. Since then, their series has expanded to encompass new partners and a variety of ride options.

The dates of each ride change month to month, and are reflected in the schedule copied below. Most events are located on the Old Erie Canal State Park section of the Erie Canal Trail (ECT), or on roads or trails that connect to the ECT. However, the ride series has grown to include Rome and Herkimer, and now Wayne County. Common stops along each ride include historical sites, local museums, and other canal features. After the 8-10 mile ride, many cyclists head into town to enjoy local food and craft beverages.

In an interview with CLCBM Executive Director Chris O’Neill, she cited two main factors that have lead to the success of the program. First, it attracts recreational riders, which she deemed an “under-served market.” Second, it links outdoor recreation with cultural heritage and small town shops, restaurants, and bars. Since its founding, Tuesdays on the Towpath has garnered support from groups such as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Parks & Trails New York, and Mello Velo Bike Shop. Historical credibility comes from the Erie Canal Museum—also a popular stop during Tuesdays on the Towpath excursions.

More information on the trips may be found at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum or in the schedule shown below.

If you’re interested in cycling and the history of the Erie Canal, and you happen to be in Central New York on a Tuesday, don’t miss this exciting, free ride. It surely won’t disappoint!

Month Date Location Meeting Location
May
5/16 Trailworks NYS Canal Corporation Lock 28A, 7665 Dry Dock Road, Lyons
June
6/6 Erie Canal Cruises Erie Canal Cruises, 800 Mohawk Street, Herkimer
6/13 Camillus Erie Canal Park Sims Store Museum, 5750 Devoe Road, Camillus
6/20*** Town of Dewitt Old Erie Canal State Park Trailhead, 5100 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse
6/27 Erie Canal Museum Erie Canal Museum, 318 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse
July
7/11 Fayetteville Citizens Fayetteville Canal Landing Park
7/18 Town of Dewitt Wegman’s, 6787 E Genesee Street, Fayetteville
6/25 Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Musuem, 717 Lakeport Rd, Chittenango
August
8/15 Old Erie Canal Community Working Group Onondaga West Lake Trail, 280 Restoration Way, Syracuse
8/22 Rome Historical Society and Fort Stanwix National Monument Bellamy Harbor Park, Rome
September
5/9 Onondaga Historical Association Onondaga East Lake Trail, 106 Lake Dr, Liverpool
5/12 Oneida Rail Trail Committee 157 Cedar Street, Oneida

*** denotes ride start time of 4 PM

Towpath Tuesdays – Capital Region

In the Albany area, there is another trail-focused series whose ride day happens to be Tuesday—Towpath Tuesdays.

Led by staff at Bike Barn, a bike shop in Cohoes, NY, cyclists meet at 6pm sharp and ride one of three routes every week. Their most popular route starts in Watervliet and continues along the Hudson River until Albany. Other routes include the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway from Cohoes to Niskayuna’s Lyons Park and from Van Schaick Pond in Cohoes to Peebles Island State Park. The atmosphere is light and fun and the views are stunning. Cyclists of all ages and experience levels are welcome. Bike Barn also offers occasional moderate mountain bike rides Sundays throughout the season. For meeting locations and ride schedules, visit Bike Barn’s Meetup page or call (518) 238-BIKE.

Happy trails!

New CTANY Board Officers Elected

Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY) is one of the most important organizations behind the 524-mile NYS Canalway Trail System. It is an all-volunteer organization that works both statewide and locally with citizens, state agencies, and municipalities to develop the Canalway Trail System as a world class multi-use recreational trail and international tourism destination. The purpose of CTANY is to promote the completion and proper maintenance of the Canalway Trail across New York State. CTANY acts as a coordination and communication group for Canalway Trail stakeholders, including state agencies, local municipalities, civic organizations, individual volunteers, and trail users. Each year, the organization elects Board Officers who will work to further CTANY’s role across the Canalway Trail System. The following Board Officers were elected in September.

ctany-board-2015-1000pixels


President

Linda Vishnesky, West Onondaga-Cayuga Regional Trail Group

Linda grew up across the street from the widewaters on Erie Blvd East. She used to ride her bike on Towpath Road to the Butternut Creek Aqueduct with her friends and ice skated on it for years. Her family owned a candy store called “Hadleys Old Erie Candies,” which had a logo featuring canal boat.

In 2008, while volunteering at the Sims Store Museum in Camillus, Linda experienced the Parks & Trails New York’s Cycle the Erie Canal tour. She saw these cyclists from all over the country and the world having such a great time, with every kind of bike and every age of person just loving it. This inspired her to train to do the tour the following year with her husband. “We rode it and then I did it alone the following year. It was one of my most memorable experiences,” remembers Linda. As part of her role helping to complete one of the largest gaps in the Erie Canalway Trail, Linda has worked with stakeholders in Onondaga County to initiate the planning process for eventual trail construction between Camillus and DeWitt.

As a docent in Camillus she works with some of the 2,100 students that come through the Sims Store Museum for the lock demonstration. She also serves on the Education Committee and is a Trail Ambassador who rides from Camillus to Port Byron regularly to check the trail conditions. She serves on the Board here at Camillus Erie Canal Park and manages the Cycle the Erie Canal rest stop the Sims Store hosts. Linda’s commitment to the trail earned her recognition as Volunteer of the Year in 2015. She also belongs to the NYS Canal Society and enjoys visiting canals around the country. Her love for the history of the Erie Canal is apparent based on the fact that she has read every one of the Walter Edmunds books as well as many others written about the Erie Canal.  “As a native Central New Yorker, I feel its history is so much a part of me,” says Linda.

Vice President
Marlene Bissell

Treasurer
Alan Bissell

Alan and Marlene Bissell have invested time and energy over the last two decades volunteering on NYS canal-related projects. In an effort to help revitalize small waterfront communities they were instrumental in creating Hudson Crossing Park (HCP) centered around Champlain Canal Lock 5 in Schuylerville.  The Bissells recently moved to Central NY and passed the park torch to Wally Elton (President), Cindy Wian (Director), and the dedicated volunteers on the HCP Board of Directors.

Alan and Marlene helped John DiMura from Canal Corporation establish the Champlain Canalway Trail Working Group and have served on the CTANY Board of Directors for many years. They are honored to be among recipients of the NYS Canal Tender’s Award and the Conservation Heroes Award from Saratoga PLAN. They are avid environmentalists and backyard birders and have traveled the entire canal system on a pontoon boat converted into a camper.

The Bissells invite Canalway Trail Times readers to explore the many miles of scenic trail and they encourage our elected officials and municipalities to make the completion of all branches of Canalway Trail (Erie, Champlain, Cayuga-Seneca, and Oswego) as a way to spark community economic revitalization and preserve the unique history of the NYS Canal System.

Secretary
Wally Elton, Central Champlain Regional Trail Group

Having grown up in Brockport, Wally has long been interested in the canal system. Although there was no Erie Canalway Trail then, Wally remembers many people walking the towpath locally for fun. He first became involved with the Canalway Trail and CTANY when he started working at PTNY in 2008. During his time there, he attended CTANY meetings, coordinated the Canal Clean Sweep and the former Canalway Trail Celebration, started the first Trail Ambassadors project in Schenectady/Niskayuna, participated in the Champlain Canalway Trail Working Group (CCTWG), and helped initiate the Closing the Gaps report and the End-to-Enders program. Since retiring, he has remained involved with both CTANY and the CCTWG, written articles for the Canalway Trail Times and, thanks to Marlene, joined the board of Hudson Crossing Park, where he now serves as president. His hope for CTANY this year is that we can fill open slots on the board and increase recognition of the organization and its role in completing the Canalway Trail System.

Visit our website to learn more about CTANY, including how you can contact your local regional trail group director or participate in the organization.

Trail Tender Award Recognizes Old Erie Canal State Park Trail Ambassador

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Trail Ambassador Dave Kellogg at Cedar Bay Bridge in DeWitt

Congratulations to Canalway Trail Ambassador Dave Kellogg on his recent receipt of the 2016 Trail Tender Award. The Trail Tender Award recognizes the valuable contribution of individuals to promoting, enhancing, and completing the 524-mile New York State Canalway Trail system. Dave has been an active trail user for more than three decades, and over the course of the past two years has ridden hundreds of miles in Old Erie Canal State Park between DeWitt and Rome as a Trail Ambassador. See below for a profile of Dave and his interest in the trail.

  1. How long have you been riding on the Canalway Trail?

We moved here in 1980, and we chose our home partly because of its proximity to the Canal. I ran more in those days and early on marked out a measured mile along the trail using my bike and counting wheel revolutions. Runners used it for years until the markers deteriorated. So to answer your question, 36 years minus the 5 years we lived in Puerto Rico = 31 years. And yes, I took my bike to P.R.

  1. What is your average time/mileage on the trail?

My exercise calendars show I’ve cycled an average of 1,000 miles per year over the past 5 years. Not all of that has been on the Canal, but the vast majority has been Canal-related. One of the PTNY priorities has been to “promote bicycling for … towns and their economic development”.  Showing up at a local store on a bike to let owners know about the Canal and its cyclists helps address that priority. My time spent on the Canal this year (through August) is approaching 50 hours. (See #4 for comments about miles and time.)  I’ve also spoken about the Canal to two small groups.

Occasionally, there’s an opportunity for some Trail maintenance, from branches across the trail to litter to addressing some delinquency.

 

  1. What do you like best about the Trail and your involvement with the trail?

People react to the Trail and the Canal in different ways. Some ways are obvious, like exercise, training and fitness. Other visitors get caught up in the history or engineering. Some want to experience nature: seeing a Great Blue Heron, a beaver or, less frequently and therefore more exciting, a Bald Eagle. All these people are willing to share their interests and passions if given just a little encouragement. With this encouragement the Canalway Trail is quite possibly the friendliest community in the country. Here’s an example of community, friendliness and impact. A young woman just relocated to the Syracuse area from her native state of Colorado to join her boyfriend who works at Syracuse University. The three of us met along the Trail and started talking about the simple pleasures the Canal offers. Suddenly, the woman changed the topic and burst out with, “I’m on the Erie Canal!”  I guess my reaction was not strong enough, so she brought her face closer to mine and said with emphasis,”I mean I’m on the Erie Canal.  I’m actually on the Erie Canal.”  To me it seemed she was reliving that portion of her childhood when she first learned about the Canal and probably sang the famous Canal song and maybe imagined her ancestors starting on the Erie Canal on their way west. That’s the impact the Canal can have on some.

 

The Barbershop Quartet:  This certainly wasn’t the first time musical entertainment was incorporated into Cycle the Erie. And it may not have been the first Barbershop group to serenade the cyclists.  However, it may have been the first time actually on the Canalway Trail and in the Dewitt area. It was an idea that seemed to flow from the 1890s song, “Daisy, Daisy, etc.”  Wouldn’t it be neat to ride around a curve on the Canal and encounter a group of singers wearing straw hats and red and white stripped vests? Well, it was pretty neat and possibly the most photographed spot on the ride.

 

  1. What advice do you have for others considering using the trail or helping “Tend the Trail?

We can count miles on the Canalway Trail or keep track of hours spent but the most revealing information in my mind does not come from metrics but from narratives, the interactions with people.  Without exception each person I’ve encountered is happy to talk and has an interesting and even exciting story to tell.  Some are long distance travelers:
– Several End-to-Enders, Buffalo to Albany
– Peter from Dublin: NYC to Buffalo, then Canada, etc.
– Casey, a retired truck driver who has been to 48 states in an 18-wheeler and is now visiting them on two wheels.

– Dusty and Angie, going Coast to Coast

– A fellow who was on his 17th (that’s right, seventeenth!) cross country trip, this one from Nova Scotia to Seattle.

– And no one will forget Bernice Ende who arrived on horseback on her way from Montana to Maine.

My list is 46 individuals, not including a variety of organizations such as the local Chamber of Commerce, the Day Care Kids, several merchants and especially Fleet Feet who sponsor long runs on the Canal.

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.