Progress at the Northern End of the Champlain Canalway Trail

“There will never be a trail coming up here!”  This was a common comment made by many residents of Washington County, particularly in the northern half of the county, about the Champlain Canalway Trail (CCT) becoming a reality.  But over the years very dedicated volunteers, working closely with the NYS Canal Corporation, local municipalities, Washington County, and the Champlain Canalway Trail Working Group have moved the concept of a trail closer to reality.  Now, with the creation of the Empire State Trail (EST), many insurmountable obstacles are being overcome.

One of the most difficult obstacles was trying to cross the Old Champlain Canal/Feeder Canal, traversing Bond Creek, and getting across Route 196, all within the area of Dunham’s Basin in the Town of Kingsbury, Washington County.  This EST project will bridge the two water features and build a tunnel under the very busy highway.  In addition, a bike path funded by the 2005 Transportation Bond Act will be started later this year, bringing the CCT and the EST to Fort Ann.  By 2020, CCT trail may run from the Dix Bridge at the Saratoga County/Washington County border to Fort Ann in Washington County.

The final leg of the CCT, a nine-mile stretch between Fort Ann and Whitehall, will be the most difficult.  Volunteers in the Fort Ann-Whitehall area formed their own working group and have worked tirelessly to complete the final leg.  The group, applying through a local non-profit, secured a Hudson River Valley Greenways Grant for a feasibility study.  With support for the match from local government, the feasibility study will be completed in the next month.  One of the key parts in routing this trail is the cooperation of a privately-owned campground and in crossing Department of Corrections property.  Adding to the momentum, the Washington County Board of Supervisors has formed a countywide trails committee and received funding to do the final design and planning for the CCT from Comstock (just north of Fort Ann) to Whitehall.

Once completed, the EST will likely follow the route of the CCT to Whitehall where trails from Canada on each side of Lake Champlain will connect, uniting a cross-state and international network of trails.

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The Arkell Museum is now officially Bike Friendly

Through collecting and preserving art, the Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library aims to expand appreciation for, and promote the arts and humanities in Canajoharie. Their collections include American Art, Mohawk Valley History, and Beech-Nut Archives, as well as different exhibitions.

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The Arkell Museum now combines its world-class art collection with bike friendly amenities to enhance the Mohawk Valley’s appeal as a major cycling destination.

The Arkell Museum has recently become a Bike Friendly New York Business. It is located less than three blocks away from the Erie Canalway Trail. Its front desk staff knows the local community well, and is happy to direct cyclists to places to eat or shop. Although no bike shop or rental operator exists in Canajoharie, the Museum received a generous donation of a bicycle repair kit from the Inn at Cooperstown for anyone needing assistance. In addition to its strategic location along the Erie Canalway Trail, the Arkell Museum has long supported cyclists by remaining open late for the hundreds of riders participating in the annual Cycle the Erie Canal tour.

Perhaps nobody knows how far these gestures go more than Jenna Riley, the Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the Arkell Museum, who herself is an avid cyclist (she participated in one America’s largest and most famous long-distance rides, RAGBRAI).

“We are thrilled to be a Bike Friendly Business here at the Arkell Museum and Canajoharie Library. Cycling is such a wonderful way to see parts of the state that often get passed by; following the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail takes you right along extant parts of the Erie Canal that motorists will never have the chance to see, and brings you in closer contact with the communities that you ride through,” said Riley. “For us, it made perfect sense to become a Bike Friendly Business. We are located right in between the Trail and Canajoharie’s Riverfront Park, we naturally see a lot of traffic from cyclists.”

The Arkell Museum houses a wonderful collection of American art, including works by Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, and many others, and we also cover local history, including the fascinating history of Canajoharie’s Beech-Nut Packing Company. It is enough to make any cyclist stop and stretch their legs for a bit!

Because it is also a public library, the facility has bike maps bookmarked on its computers’ web browsers to assist cyclists in finding further routes during their travels.

The Arkell Museum is open Tuesdays-Fridays from 10:00-5:00 and weekends 12:00-5:00. The Canajoharie Library is open additional hours on Wednesday evening from 5:00-7:00. There is no fee to use the library. Admission to the museum is free for members and children under 11, $9.00 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and students.

 

NYS Canalway Water Trail Launched

Paddling along the NYS Canal System became easier and more accessible in 2017, thanks to continued water trail planning coordinated by the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, in partnership with the NYS Canal Corporation. Paddlers can now find more than 100 access points and amenities on the new NYS Canalway Water Trail website, which includes sites from Rome to Waterford along the eastern Erie Canal. Expansion of the website and creation of a guidebook and map set covering the entire NYS Canal System is in the works with anticipated completion in December 2018.

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Paddling has become increasingly popular on the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals. The relatively calm waters combined with the unique experience of going through locks and visiting canal communities makes the canal an attractive place for paddling adventures. The ability to be on the water for just a few hours or for multiple days presents options for beginners to advanced paddlers.

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Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor launched a new Facebook group this fall for anyone interested in paddling the NYS Canalway Water Trail. The open group is a place to ask questions, share information, and meet those who share a passion for paddling the canals. Sign up: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NYSCanalwayWaterTrail

For more information on the NYS Canalway Water Trail, contact project manager Brian Yates at brian_yates@partner.nps.gov or (518) 237-7000, ext. 220.

AAT Spotlight: 2018 Adopt-a-Trail Opportunities Available Now

The Canalway Trail needs regular maintenance throughout the season to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for the public. Presently, more than 50 groups and individuals are participating in the Canalway Trail Adopt-a-Trail (AAT) program by “adopting” sections of trail within their communities along the 524-mile NYS Canalway Trail.

Adopt-a-Trail groups tackle many types of maintenance tasks such as picking up litter, mowing, trimming brush, removing fallen branches, raking and patching the trail surface, maintaining signs, painting, and landscaping. Group coordinators receive an identifying t-shirt. Trail adopters are able to work on their own schedule but it is recommended that between April and November they engage in maintenance activities once a month.

All Adopt-a-Trail groups must complete a two-year maintenance agreement form with Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation. These forms and more information, including a map of trail segments available for adoption, can be found at the Adopt-at-Trail page on Parks & Trails New York’s website or by emailing aat@ptny.org.

Two Canalway Trail Stewards Retire

If you have ever used the Champlain Canalway Trail (CCT) in Saratoga and Washington Counties, chances are good your enjoyable experience wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of Marlene and Alan Bissell. Last month, the Bissells announced they would be retiring from the board of the Canalway Trails Association New York (CTANY), a statewide organization responsible for assisting localities in developing, managing, and maintaining the Canalway Trail.

The Bissells served on the CTANY board for several years, where Marlene most recently served as President and Alan served as treasurer.

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Marlene (front row, center) and Alan (back row, second from the right) have many accomplishments to be proud of as a result of their more than two-decade commitment to the Canalway Trail. 

The Bissells’ more than two-decade commitment to the Champlain Canalway Trail was instrumental in the establishment of the bi-county Hudson Crossing Park at Lock 5 in Saratoga and Washington Counties and the formation of the Champlain Canalway Trail Working Group. In 2012 they received the Trail Tender Award in recognition of their leadership to develop recreational opportunities along the CCT. Their hard work paid off again in 2015 when Hudson Crossing Park also won the Erie Canalway Heritage Award of Excellence.

After moving to Central New York in 2015 the Bissells decided to pass the leadership baton on to a dedicated group of volunteers that continue to promote and improve the Hudson Crossing Park and Champlain Canalway Trail.

“It has been our pleasure to work with dedicated friends and diverse partners throughout the four NYS canal corridors,” said Marlene. “Playing a small role in the development of the Canalway Trail as it became a catalyst for economic revitalization and environmental stewardship has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Perhaps our greatest joy is simply seeing the trail so frequently used by people of all ages and all abilities.”

While Marlene and Alan’s dedication to the Champlain Canalway Trail will be missed, they will surely be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor whether they are camping on the historic Canal waterways or birding along the hundreds of miles of towpath trails.

Empire State Trail Updates

New Empire State Trail Design Guidelines Released

New York State recently released Design Guidelines for new trail and signage projects that are located along the 750-mile Empire State Trail route. The guidelines will ensure continuity between the many local trail segments that make up the longer statewide trail.

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Wayne-Seneca-Cayuga Counties

Ongoing planning to close the longest gap in the Erie Canalway Trail, a 26-mile gap between Lyons and Port Byron, has led to the creation of a preliminary route that will be about half off-road trail and half on-road trail. The group has been discussing moving the remaining half of the on-road route off road as part of a trail planning vision that goes beyond the 2020 deadline for Empire State Trail construction.

Montgomery County Resurfacing

Last month Montgomery County began upgrading 8 miles of stonedust trail between Minden and Fort Plain to an asphalt trail. This marks the first phase of a resurfacing project Montgomery County is undertaking that will result in 40 miles of paved trail between Minden and Amsterdam by the end of 2018. Completing the remaining 5-mile on-road gap in Montgomery County between Amsterdam and Pattersonville is included in Phase 2 of the Empire State Trail construction timeline, which will be completed by 2020.

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More miles of trail to enjoy are on their way to the Canalway Trail corridor

Champlain Canalway Trail

In September, NYS announced that $12 million of the $200 million Empire State Trail construction fund will go towards building 22 miles of multi-use trail and bicycle-friendly on-road enhancements along the 61-mile Champlain Canalway Trail linking the Erie Canalway Trail to Whitehall on Lake Champlain. The projects will be completed by 2020. The Champlain Canalway Trail is part of the north-south corridor of the 750-mile Empire State Trail and serves as approximately one-third of the route between Albany and the Canadian Border.

Hudson River Valley Greenway

The Hudson River Valley Greenway is the primary north-south route for the Empire State Trail, extending 260 miles between Lake George and Battery Park, Manhattan. It connects 10 trails, including the Champlain Canalway Trail.

Albany – Hudson Electric Trail

The 35-mile Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHET) between Rensselaer and Hudson is the longest section of new trail to be built to connect the Empire State Trail. The route will include 25 miles of off-road trail and enhanced on-road amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians for the remaining 10 miles. The project is currently in the late stages of planning, with several public meetings conducted in Rensselaer and Columbia Counties since the beginning of summer. Construction of the AHET segment will begin in 2019 and end in 2020. Once complete, the AHET will connect Downtown Albany and the Erie Canalway Trail with the Hudson River Valley Greenway.

Beacon Line Rail Trail

Earlier this month a concept plan for the Beacon Line Rail Trail was released. The 25-mile Beacon Line Rail Trail (BLRT) will connect the Putnam County Trail, Dutchess Rail Trail and the Walkway Over the Hudson, which will be the first Hudson River crossing along the north-south spine of the Empire State Trail. The route will be a rail-with-trail, running alongside an inactive rail corridor that goes from Brewster to Hopewell Junction.

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

In October, the Town of New Paltz cut the ribbon on a new bridge along the 22-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

Concerns about the old bridge’s structural integrity led to closing the bridge last spring, causing a significant disruption in the connectivity of one of the Empire State Trai

l’s north-south segments. The quick replacement of the bridge likely would not have happened without the availability of resources from the Governor’s $200 million Empire State Trail initiative, making it the first section of new trail to open using EST funds.

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New bridge connecting the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail

Upcoming meetings

  • Albany-Hudson Electric Trail – East Greenbush (December 13, 6:00 PM at East Greenbush Town Hall)
  • Erie Canalway Trail, Ilion Marina to Mohawk – Ilion (December 6, 5:30 – 7:30 PM at Ilion Village Hall)
  • Erie Canalway Trail, Frankfort to Ilion Marina – Week of January 8
  • Erie Canalway Trail, Lock 18 to Route 167, Little Falls – Week of January 15
  • Erie Canalway Trail, Utica to Frankfort – Week of January 22
  • Champlain Canalway Trail, Fort Edward to New Swamp Road, Hudson Falls – Week of January 29

For meetings without specific dates or locations, check out the Erie Canalway Trail and Parks & Trails New York Facebook pages for more information.

More Empire State Trail news on the way!

Calling all End-to-Enders, Class of 2017

DSC_1390Each year, hundreds of people complete the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail. These people are called End-to-Enders and are part of a small but growing group of Erie Canalway Trail enthusiasts. While a majority of them complete the trail by bicycle, some have walked the entire 360 miles. The experience of being able to bike alongside the 200-year-old Erie Canal, the sense of accomplishment that comes with biking (or hiking) across New York State, or incorporating the Erie Canalway Trail into a longer bicycle trip are among the reasons people give as their motivation for making the End-to-End trek.

If you’ve completed the Erie Canalway Trail End-to-End in 2017, we want to hear from you! If you haven’t already, take a few minutes to complete our brief survey about your trip. As a token of our appreciation, we’ll include your name on the official End-to-Ender Honor Roll and send you an End-to-End decal you can proudly display on your car or bike. We’ll also enter your name into a raffle to win some great Erie Canalway Trail swag.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the End-to-End recognition program visit the official website for the Erie Canalway Trail. You’ll find all of the resources you need to complete your own End-to-End journey.