Hittin’ the Trail

2017 Bicyclists Bring Business Events Head to Utica

Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation hit the trail to Utica for the annual “Bicyclists Bring Business: Canalway Trail Tourism for Your Downtown!” events. The evening program and community bike ride generated healthy discussion and excitement about how Utica, Oneida County, and the Mohawk Valley can further develop as cycling destinations.

This year’s events were sponsored by the City of Utica, Oneida County Tourism, Oneida County Health Department, and Utica Bike Rescue, Homegrown Bicycle Adventures, and Mohawk Valley GIS.


The venue for Tuesday’s Evening Roundtable was thINCubator (326 Broad Street, Utica), a shared work space that demonstrates that innovation and creativity are alive and well. After light refreshments, the evening’s presentations provided an update Utica’s growing urban cycling network and future connections to the Empire State Trail, and some background on bicycle tourism on the Erie Canalway Trail. The heart of the program, as always, was robust discussion and a bringing together of various public agencies and resident groups around issues related to the bike/ped network.

All Attendees received a copy of the handbook, Bicyclists Bring Business: A Guide to Attracting Bicyclists to New York’s Canal Communities.

On Wednesday, as a follow-up to the presentation, staff from Utica Bike Rescue led a Community Bike-a-Round, a relaxed ride on Utica’s stretch of the Erie Canalway Trail and through several of Utica’s vibrant downtown neighborhoods.  Along the way, the group was able to see new recreational loop routes from the perspective of a cycling tourist. We’ll make stops to discuss connection to local points of interest and opportunities for improved infrastructure, programming, and promotion. After the ride, the group talked over what they saw over lunch at Aqua Vino.

Despite a great evening event and a

wonderful ride that reinforced Utica’s beauty, history, and great potential as a cycling destination, much work remains. However, all agreed that the enthusiasm generated and connections made at this week’s events will provide a boost to local efforts.

Media Coverage

Coverage of the evening event is available here, and bike around clips here.

Economic Impact of the Canalway Trail

According to a 2014 study, the Erie Canalway Trail experiences more than 1.58 million visits per year, and spending by ECT visitors generates approximately $253 million in annual economic impact. Oneida County’s 25 miles of existing Canalway Trail feature scenic views of the Mohawk River and connect the cities of Rome and Utica to the statewide trail network. With the County’s remaining gap section scheduled to be closed by 2020 as part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail vision, and the region’s unique combination of big-city amenities and access to the Mohawk Valley and Southern Adirondacks, Utica is well positioned to become a premier destination for cycling tourists and other recreationalists.

Bicyclists Bring Business, or B3, is presented in one Canalway Trail community each year by Parks & Trails New York and the NYS Canal Corporation. Communities interested in hosting B3 should email b3roundtable@ptny.org.


Thanks to all the great event sponsors and partners in Utica that made this year’s event memorable and successful!


Weekly Rides Help Cyclists Get in the Habit

Tuesday is the day to be out on the Erie Canalway Trail in the Albany and Syracuse areas, with organized group rides in both areas providing fun introductions to social cycling.

Across the Canalway Trail System, local cyclists and cycling groups use the trail for outings of varied length and intensity. Some cyclists are just out to enjoy the view, while others are looking to burn calories or train for an event such as a century ride or self-supported bike tour. Whatever your style, there’s plenty of room for whatever type of cycling you’d like to do on the Erie Canalway Trail – with nearly 300 miles of off-road route and a variety of trail surfaces. There’s also great groups and events that can help introduce you to trail riding, including the two groups rides profiled below.

Tuesdays on the Towpath – Madison & Oneida County

Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum (CLCBM) and Syracuse Bicycles Shop teamed up to host a spring/summer ride series in 2012. Since then, their creation, Tuesdays on the Towpath, has grown to include new ride options and new partners.

The Tuesday events are guided rides, generally on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month. They use either the Old Erie Canal State Park section of the Erie Canalway Trail (ECT), on roads that follow the route of the Old Erie Canal through downtown Syracuse and the Inner Harbor,  or on trails connected to the ECT including the Oneida Rail Trail. Most rides are between 8 and 10 miles, with stops along the way to talk about Canal features or historic sites. The Tuesday rides attract recreational riders of all ages and abilities, and on all types of bikes. When possible, local museums keep special hours for rides. After the rides, the group heads to local establishments to “test” the local food and craft beverages.IMG_2600

According to CLCBM Executive Director Chris O’Neill, the ride series has been a great success. She points to two main reasons: it serves the recreational rider, an under-served market, and provides a fun link between local cultural heritage, outdoor recreation, and area bike shops. Over the years, Tuesdays on the Towpath has drawn support from Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Parks & Trails New York, Syracuse Bicycles Shop, and Mello Velo Bike Shop. An ongoing partnership with the Erie Canal Museum provides historical credibility. Beginning in 2014, rides became a partnership with Old Erie Canal Community Working Group (OECCWG), with communities and organizations alternating as hosts and guides for the weekly rides.

Partners for the Tuesday rides have even introduced an overnight tour on the Canalway Trail, Tour the Towpath.

It’s historic. It’s scenic. It’s social. So, if you’re in the Syracuse area on a Tuesday, don’t miss this great weekly ride. More information from Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum.

Towpath Tuesdays –  Capital Region

Aerial view3Another great, trail-focused ride series is hosted by Bike Barn, in Cohoes, north of Albany. Their weekly ride also happens to be on a Tuesday.

“Tow Path Tuesdays” are organized group rides, led by Bike Barn staff and other experienced cyclists, that follow one of three different routes. Bike Barn classifies these rides as “entry level,” meaning that cyclists of all abilities are welcome, as are all types of bicycles – hybrid, mountain, road, etc. Each route contains some street riding, but the focus is on multi-use paths including the Erie Canalway Trail.

Bike Barn’s tried-and-true Watervliet to Albany route is entirely on trail, with cyclists taking in great views of the Hudson River and the Albany skyline. It’s a great option, and a great way to meet other trail enthusiasts in the Capital Region.

The group generally meets at the Van Schaick Pond parking lot in Cohoes, and the ride begins at 6:00 PM sharp. More information is available on Bike Barn’s Meetup page, or by calling (518) 238-BIKE.

Get in the habit this spring and summer by finding an organized ride that suites your style.


Not Your Average Bike Path

News from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

As frequent riders and End-to-Enders know, the Erie Canalway Trail is not your average bike path. Extending from Buffalo to Albany, the trail’s course alongside the historic Erie Canal makes cycling here truly unique. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this living waterway adds distinctive flavor in the form of canal structures like locks and lift bridges, working tugs and other vessels, friendly vacationers in boats of all stripes, and canal communities that are intriguing and fun cycling destinations.

While you’re here—or before you come—visit the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor’s new website. Several special galleries will help you to learn about canal structures and vessels that you’ll see when cycling. You can view the website easily on your phone, tablet or computer, so you’ll find the answers to your canal questions in your pocket or bike bag when riding.

Here are a few of our favorite things to see while cycling the Erie Canalway Trail. Find more at www.eriecanalway.org.

Watch for the powerful tugs Gov. Roosevelt and Gov. Cleveland. Both were built in 1928 as icebreaking tugs. You may also see tugs Syracuse, Pittsford, Seneca, and Lockport, or one of the smaller, but still mighty Tender Tugs at work.

04_LiftBridge_Brockport_JM09Lift Bridges

Built between 1905 and 1918, sixteen lift bridges still carry traffic over the Erie Canal in western New York. Approaching canal boats alert bridge operators with three horn blasts. The operator stops traffic on the roadway and raises the deck of the bridge 15 feet into the air to give clearance for passing boats and barges.

07_HistoricLockE56_Lyons_MarkDeCracker1800s Lock

Many of the 83 locks built on the Erie Canal in the 1800s can still be seen today. Some lie alongside today’s locks, while others are visible from the Erie Canalway Trail. These stone-walled locks were replaced by much larger and fewer concrete structures between 1905 and 1918.

Canal Operator12_Lock3_LockTender

Not a structure, but key to making the canal system work, lock and lift bridge operators carry on a long and proud tradition of ensuring that canal structures look and run well. They operate the locks for boaters, maintain equipment, keep records of the number and types of boats passing through the system, and ensure safe passage for thousands of boaters each year. Most will be happy to answer your questions about how things work.

Champlain Canalway Trail: New Visitor Center Will Boost Tourism

News from the Champlain Canalway Trail

A long-planned visitor center immediately adjacent to the Champlain Canalway Trail (CCT) in Schuylerville may soon come into being. Located close to the mid-point of the CCT, the Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitor Center, will be built on Route 29/Ferry Street close to Fort Hardy Park and the Field of Grounded Arms, where General Burgoyne’s troops surrendered their weapons following defeat at the Battles of Saratoga. The center also will be within sight of an intact section of the historic Champlain Canal.

A collaborative effort between Lakes-to-Locks Passage, the Historic Hudson – Hoosic Rivers Partnership, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Saratoga National Historical Park, the Town of Saratoga, Saratoga County and others, the center will provide information about communities and historic, natural, cultural and recreational experiences along the Lakes to Locks Passage Scenic Byway and the CCT.

Funding for the project came from a number of New York and Federal grants, as well as a generous donation of timber from Saratoga County. The recently-passed New York State budget included an additional $250,000 to support the construction. Currently, construction is expected to begin this summer and be completed by summer of 2017. During this same timeframe, a short segment of the CCT in Schuylerville is expected to be completed. With that gap closed, the visitor center will be connected directly by trail to the General Philip Schuyler House to the south and to Hudson Crossing Park and Washington County via the Dix Bridge to the north.


Meet Erie Canalway Trail End-to-Enders Boris and Marianna Maltsev


e3Boris and Marianna Maltsev of Hillsdale, New Jersey decided that the best way to celebrate Marianna’s 16th birthday wouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car, it would be on two wheels. Last August, the Maltsev’s made a celebratory bike ride from Buffalo to Albany, becoming Erie Canalway Trail End-to-Enders in the process. We loved their story so much we chose them as the winners of our LL Bean gift card raffle.

According to Marianna, the best part of the trip was spending exclusive time with her father, Boris. In addition to great father-daughter bonding, the Maltsevs appreciated seeing and experiencing the Erie Canal’s lock system, an engineering sideshow that features both working and historical locks that raise and lower the water level as the Canal travels between Lake Erie and the Hudson River. They also enjoyed the peacefulness that comes with being off-road on the trail most of the way.

Marianna’s mother and sister helped to commemorate the end of the journey by streaming tape across the end of the trial in Albany to create an impromptu finish line. While the trip may have ended in seven days, the adventure continues this summer, as Boris and Marianna bike along the C&O and GAP Trails.

If you have completed the Erie Canalway Trail End-to-End and would like to share your story, visit our website and register to become an End-to-Ender. All registrants receive an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-Ender decal and the chance to be entered into this year’s raffle. The End-to-End program is managed by Parks & Trails New York with financial support from the New York State Canal Corporation.

New CycletheErieCanal Website and Guidebook Launched

Parks & Trails New York has rolled out two new ways to help plan a visit to the Erie Canalway Trail. The new website CycletheErieCanal.com and the just-released, fourth edition of the Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook are designed to promote the Erie Canalway Trail as a cycling destination and bring more tourism dollars to upstate New York. 

Whether for a leisurely afternoon or a week-long adventure to become an official “End-to-Ender,” the new website, www.CycletheErieCanal.com, includes everything a visitor needs to plan a ride, including:

  • Trip planning: suggestions based on both region and interest (history, nature, culture, etc.)
  • An interactive map of the trail to track distance and find accommodations and services
  • Rider reviews: first-hand accounts from riders along the Erie Canal
  • Information about the annual Cycle the Erie Canal cross-state ride, which attracts more than 600 cyclists each July, and covers 400 miles between Buffalo and Albany (Next year’s ride is July 10-17).

New guidebook packed with information

The new 152 –page, fourth edition of the popular Cycling the Erie Canal guidebook is an indispensable resource for dedicated cyclists planning to bike across the state or the casual rider looking to take the family out for a couple of hours. It is also great for walkers, hikers, inline skaters, boaters and auto travelers.

Inside you will find:ERIE-3RDEDITION-cover

  • 42 easy-to-read, full-color maps
  • New inset maps to guide trail users through complicated stretches
  • Comprehensive listing of attractions, historic sites, visitor centers, parks
  • Availability of lodging, bike shops, parking and other services

According to the 2014 report, “The Economic Impact of the Erie Canalway Trail: An Assessment and User Profile of New York’s Longest Multi-Use Trail,” visitors generate approximately $253 million in sales, 3,440 jobs, and $28.5 million in taxes for New York’s upstate economy each year.

However, the same report notes that just 2.5% of estimated annual trail visits are made by persons residing outside the 35 counties surrounding the Erie Canalway Trail. The new website and the new edition of the guidebook are designed to especially attract riders from beyond the Canalway corridor.

Parks & Trails New York created www.CycletheErieCanal.com with funding from New York State Economic Development/I LOVE NEW YORK, in partnership with the NYS Canal Corporation and the National Park Service Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. The guidebook was updated with funding from the NYS Canal Corporation, as well as additional support from the National Park Service Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor,  First Niagara, CSEA, and Brookfield Renewable Energy.

Find Your Park in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

News from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

Take a day or weekend and find great places to explore and enjoy in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. Erie Canalway has paired national parks and canal sites to create five free itineraries that introduce people to some of the best historic, cultural, and natural sites and recreational experiences within the Canalway Corridor.

Each itinerary features must see sites, as well as options for side trips. Suggestions for cycling, paddling, walking and canal tours, as well as nearby places to eat or picnic are also included. Find Your Park itineraries are available online for free and can also be downloaded at www.eriecanalway.org/FYP.htm.

“New Yorkers don’t have to travel far to experience national parks and our historic canals,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “These itineraries are equally great for families, as they are for people looking for weekend trips and getaways with friends or relatives.”

Five national parks and heritage areas are located within an hour’s drive of major cities in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and all are close to significant canal heritage sites, the 524-mile-long NYS Canal System, and the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail.ErieCanalway-FYP_600px

National parks and heritage areas featured include:

Saratoga National Historical Park, Stillwater

Fort Stanwix National Monument, Rome

Women’s Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls

Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo

Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, Niagara Falls

The new itineraries are part of the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign to kick off its 100th anniversary. Search for more Find Your Park experiences to learn, discover, be inspired, or simply have fun in national parks.

This article was submitted by Jean McKay at the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor as part of an ongoing feature in Canalway Trail Times.