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!

Hilton Garden Inn: Bike Friendly in Bushnell’s Basin

This month’s Trailside business, the Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/Pittsford, has served cyclists on the statewide Canalway Trail system since 2013. This year, they will become the first bike-friendly certified business as part of Parks & Trails New York and the NYS Canal Corporation’s Bike Friendly New York program, set to launch in May.

Situated right along the Erie Canalway Trail, in the historic district of Bushnells Basin, Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/Pittsford has offered cyclists convenient and relaxing accommodations since its debut in 2013.

The 107 room property features the Garden Grille & Bar, complimentary Wi-Fi, heated indoor pool with whirlpool spa, and outdoor patio with fire pit.There are also several eateries and shops within a short walking distance, or guests may take the complimentary shuttle to Eastview Mall.

The Hilton Garden Inn’s bike-friendly credentials are strong, with the hotel providing indoor bike storage, free overnight parking and keeping bike repair tools and supplies handy. It’s no wonder the Hilton was voted number one for lodging in the Greater Rochester Region on TripAdvisor. Find out more by visiting www.rochesterpittsford.hgi.com.

“Our close proximity to the Erie Canalway trail makes the Hilton Garden Inn the perfect spot for cyclists to refresh and relax during their travels,” said Jessica Conley, Sales Director for the Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/Pittsford. “We continue to see an increase in cyclists along the trail and the Bike Friendly New York program will allow us to make their stay more comfortable and convenient.”

Bike Friendly New York 

Bike Friendly New York (BFNY) is a bicycle friendly certification program set to launch in 2017. Administered by Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the New York State Canal Corporation, BFNY aims to recognize and promote businesses that provide special accommodations for bicyclists. A wide range of businesses can apply for bike-friendly certification, including restaurants and bars, lodging, shops, and museums. BFNY was conceived with businesses located along the statewide Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) in mind; however, eligible businesses across New York may apply and be certified.

More information, including the program guide and application link, can be found at www.ptny.org/bikefriendly.

 

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

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!

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!