Reimaging the Canal’s Next 200 Years

Reimagine the Canals Competition Seeks Ideas for the Canal’s Next 200 Years logo-canals

New York’s Canal System has been the source of many celebrations recently. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Barge Canal, the name by which the Canal System—which includes the Erie, Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca and Champlain canals–was formerly known by. Last year, marked the bicentennial of the start of the Erie Canal’s construction. And given that the Canal was not completed until 1825, there will be a lot more to celebrate in the years to come.

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But the Erie Canal is not a historic relic. It remains a vital waterway for New York State. But how to make it relevant for current and future generations?  Enter New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones. NYPA assumed operating control of the canals last year. Quiniones, who has a national reputation as a leading innovator in the electric utility industry, conceived of the $2.5 million Reimagine the Canals Competition, which seeks to reward the best ideas to leverage the canals to promote economic development and enable them to become an engine for tourism and recreation throughout the 524-mile canal corridor.img_3647

 

The response was overwhelming. After the competition was unveiled at the World Canals Conference in Syracuse last September, NYPA and the Canal Corporation received 145 entries from nine countries. An international panel of judges narrowed down the list of finalists to seven. All are intriguing in their own right, but two that might be of particular interest to PTNY members include one that would develop overnight accommodations for recreational users of the Canal System. Another envisions a multi-day race that would include a component for bikers and hikers. Entries are due in July. The winners will be announced in the early fall. For more information, go to www.canals.ny.gov/reimaginethecanals.

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Introducing the new Canalway Trail Manager

Sasha Eisenstein joins the NYS Canal Corporation as Trail Manager and Business Development Specialist. 

With unprecedented funding for trail completion through the Empire State Trail project and a summer chock-full of trail activity on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for the Canalway Trail and the Canal Corporation.

Fortunately for trail users and supporters Canal Corporation has hired a Trails Manager that brings great experience and energy to the growing system.

Sasha comes to the New York State Canal Corporation from Audubon New York where she served as Government Relations Manager, developing and managing a comprehensive statewide strategy that included engagement, education and advocacy across the Federal, state and local spectrum of governments.

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Sasha hard at work at Clean Sweep in Waterford

Among her environmental policy work, Sasha partnered with Parks & Trails New York on behalf of Audubon New York, advocating for the $200 million dollars in funding for the Empire State Trail system. Prior to that, she served as a Special Assistant for the Environment for Governor Andrew Cuomo, where she participated in legislative and budget negotiations, as well as help administer environmental programming from the Executive office.

In Sasha’s spare time, she likes to be outdoors; from hiking the high peaks in the Adirondacks, to birding and white water rafting, Sasha loves exploring Upstate New York and all it has to offer. Sasha’s passion for outdoor recreation and experience in government relations; environmental policy; open space access development; community engagement; marketing and budgeting, will all serve her well in her new role as Trails Manager.

Keep an eye out for Sasha on your section of Canalway Trail!

New Niagara County Adopt-a-Trail group beautifying Erie Canalway Trailheads

If you’ve been on the Erie Canalway Trail’s Pendleton and Amherst sections this spring you’ve probably noticed some improvements to the trailhead gardens. At many of these trailheads, what were once non-descript trail access points, flowering gardens with repurposed bicycle part sculptures have sprouted up. This beautification project is the work of green-thumbed Lockport resident, Sandy Guzzetti and the 48 volunteers she coordinates as part of the newest Adopt-a-Trail group.

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Sandy Guzzetti’s Adopt-a-Trail group has been installing these pieces of bicycle art and planting flowers along the Erie Canalway Trail in Niagara County this spring.

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 she installs and the flowers she 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.

Sandy Guzzetti and her team 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 the newest Adopt-a-Trail group.

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!

Canalway Trail Provides Inspiration for Erie Canal House

The Erie Canal House in Canajoharie is recent addition to bike friendly lodging choices along the Erie Canalway Trail, however the B & B’s foundations lay deep in the heritage of the Canal and the future of the Canalway Trail as a recreational destination.

Located directly on the Canalway Trail in the village of Canajoharie, the Erie Canal House offers cyclists the exclusive use of the entire property for their stay. With 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, plus a furnished kitchen and laundry, it serves as a luxurious base for visitors who want to explore the beauty of the Mohawk Valley and the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. The location also makes it convenient to visit historic sites along the NY State Path through History bike trail.

Built before 1855 as a barn for mules working on the Erie Canal, it was converted to a private home around 1905, when there was no longer a need for mules, or a barn. In 2015, the current owners began a historic restoration, uncovering and restoring the exterior while installing modern updates such as marble baths and solar panels.

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The owners, John and Michele McGlone, targeted cyclists traveling the ECT in designing the Erie Canal House and are proud of their Bike Friendly New York Certification from PTNY.  The Erie Canal House has a dedicated bike repair and service area, including wheel truing and professional mechanic stand, as well as a supply of spare parts and tools.

“We are one of three Bike Friendly-certified businesses in Canajoharie,” says John McGlone, “We’ve had cyclists traveling the ECT this year tell us that by being a bike friendly business we provide them with an extra level of assurance on their journey. We are very pleased that PTNY offers this program.”Erie Canal House Bike Room

Besides cyclists, the Erie Canal House will welcome paddlers enjoying the Mohawk River by offering pickup at the village boat launch and transfer of kayaks and equipment for overnight guests.

More information on the Erie Canal House, including availability can be found at www.eriecanalhouse.com.

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Check out the Erie Canal House and 79 other Bike Friendly New York businesses at ptny.org/bikefriendly.

 

Summer Fun on the NYS Canal System

2017 marks the Erie Canal bicentennial! Celebrate one of the United States national treasures and attend one of the many events happening across New York State.

 

 

The World Canals Conference

 

September 24-28, 2017

This five day world class conference in Syracuse, NY will celebrate the bicentennial of the Erie Canal as well as hold discussions about the operation and maintenance of new and historic canals, canals within larger landscapes, environmental issues, economic and community revitalization, navigation, tourism, recreation, historic preservation and interpretation. This conference requires registration.

 

Tour the Towpath

September 23 & 24, 2017

The Tour the Towpath is a two-day, supported bike ride along the world famous Erie Canal! It begins in Rome, NY and follows the Old Erie Canal Towpath trail for 36 miles to DeWitt, NY with an option to bike to the Inner Harbor in

Syracuse (additional 10 miles). There are lots of organized and spontaneous things to discover along the way!

With one and two-day options, Tour the Towpath is a family friendly event and open to cyclists of all abilities. Riders will receive a map and guide to the many attractions, museums, restaurants, shops, and historic sites that they can explore in the communities that the route encounters on the way from Rome to Syracuse. All participants end at the World Canal Conference Kick-off Celebration at the Inner Harbor in Syracuse. For more information go to www.tourthetowpath.com.


Locktoberfest 2017

Saturday, September 30, 2017, 9 AM to 5 PM

Visit Lockport for a family-friendly event that celebrate farms, food, crafts, and the community. There will be live music including Jamie Holka, The Bergholz German Band, Tom Keefer and Celtic Cross, and The Skiffle Minsterels. Locktoberfest is organized by Lockport Main Street. More information at locktoberfest.org or (716) 434-0212.

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.

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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!

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

Bicentennial Rides

2017 not only marks the 200th anniversary of Erie Canal construction. It’s also the 200th birthday of the bicycle, invented in Germany. Celebrate both by cycling these bicentennial routes on the Erie Canalway Trail:

  • Cycle from Rome to Syracuse in the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Start in Rome and you’ll be at ground zero for canal construction. Dignitaries turned the first shovel of soil in Rome on July 4, 1817. Why Rome? To ensure early success, workers started first on the easiest, most level section. Canal surveyors laid out the “Long Level” extending in both directions from Rome. This 66-mile section, from Frankfort in the east to the outskirts of Syracuse to the west, was completed without a single lock. You’ll see a number of aqueducts and bridges as you ride along the old canal—and it will be just as level for cycling as it was for canal construction 200 years ago.
  • Cycle in the Capital Region and visit Cohoes Falls. The steep climb out of the Hudson Valley around Cohoes Falls at the eastern end of the canal was one of the biggest obstacles to canal construction. Engineers designed 18 locks in Cohoes to climb 165 feet of elevation and circumvent this barrier to westward navigation. View the 75-foot cataract from Falls View Park and look for the remains of the stone locks that operated here in the 1800s adjacent to the parking area for the park. Follow the trail west for a scenic ride along the Mohawk River/Erie Canal.
  • Cycle from Lockport along the Erie Canal in Western New York. In June 1825 one of the final sections of the Erie Canal was completed in Lockport. The Lockport Flight of Five was a staircase of five locks that solved the challenge of helping boats climb the 60-foot Niagara Escarpment. Start your trip at the locks and visit the nearby Erie Canal Discovery Center, which showcases the building of the famous Flight of Five. Cycle east from Lockport; the trail is adjacent to the longest section of the canal that still follows its original path and retains its historic relationship to the communities and landscapes along its banks. You’ll discover historic Main Streets, lift bridges, farm fields, and 20th century locks alongside historic lock ruins, canal engineering marvels, and cobblestone and local sandstone buildings.
  • Go End-to-End. Cycle from Buffalo to Albany and, like thousands of canallers before you, connect Lake Erie with the Hudson River. When you do, you’ll get a sense of the Erie Canal’s impact as the longest artificial waterway and the greatest public works project in North America.The canal gave rise to villages, towns, and cities, opened the interior of North America to settlement, and put New York on the map as the Empire State.

There’s a lot to celebrate in 2017! Head to the Canalway Trail and let the fun begin!