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!

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.

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!

2018 Clean Sweep a Sparkling Success

Spring Cleaning from Buffalo to Albany
Thank you to the event organizers and thousands of passionate volunteers who participated in the 13th annual Canal Clean Sweep over Earth Day Weekend!

Because of your hard work raking, collecting trash, and planting along the Canalway Trail System, the Canalway Trail is ready for the summer season!

#WhadjaFind? Competition 
This year, we asked for pictures of the strange “Canal artifacts” collected during sweep events as part of the #WhadjaFind? competition. We had a great response, with many event organizers submitting images of the “treasures” they unearthed, as well as other shots of Sweeper hard at work.

And the winners are….. (DRUM ROLL PLEASE)……

Best Clean Sweep Spirit: Clifton Park’s Parks, Trails & Riverfront Sweep 
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With 30 events across the Town and 400 volunteers lending a hand, Clifton Park takes Clean Sweep to the next level.

 

 


Strangest Trash Treasure Find: Sam Patch Boat Clean Sweep

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Quoting the organizer of the Sam Patch Boat Clean Sweep: “Hundreds of pounds of trash, a small statue of Ganesh, a rubber snake, dozens of wine corks and a rusted eyelash curler.”

 

 

Biggest Trash “Collection”: Tonawanda Gateway Harbor Clean-up
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They get big crowds and amass huge piles of collected debris every year on the Niagara Frontier. This year, cold weather kept some volunteers at home, but they still collected a huge haul. Nice work!

 

Thank you to everyone who participated in #WhadjaFind? There are too many honorable mentions to mention, but the three winning groups will receive some Erie Canalway Trail goodies. 

Check out our Canal Clean Sweep gallery to view pictures from Clean Sweep events across New York.

Clean Sweep is a State of Mind
PTNY offers multiple ways to carry the spirit of Clean Sweep through the entire year, namely the Canalway Trail Adopt-a-Trail and Trail Ambassador programs. Groups that register as trail adopters perform routine maintenance tasks on their trail section. Canalway Trail Ambassadors do their volunteering on the move, providing assistance and a welcome to trail users.

If you’d like to get involved, visit ptny.org, call (518) 434-1583 or email aat@ptny.org for more information.

Thanks to all of this year’s Clean Sweep organizers and volunteers, the Canal Corporation for all it does to maintain the Canal Corridor as a world-class recreational venue, and Canal and Canalway Trail supporters!

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.

 

New Report reveals that Canal Events and Tours Generate $1.5 Billion in Annual Economic Impact

A new study of the economic impact of events and tours in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor calls attention to the power of tourism along New York State’s iconic canals. An estimated $1.5 billion annually is generated by events, boat tours, bicycle and paddle-sport rentals and historic site/museum tours along the Erie, Champlain, Owsego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals. Events and tours drew 3.3 million visitors in 2017.

“Not only are these events and recreational tours a fun way to experience what the canal system has to offer, they provide a significant return on investment for host communities,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “In partnership with the National Park Service and the NYS Canal Corporation, we are proud to consistently support and promote many of these endeavors and are now pleased to see the impressive economic impact revealed in this report.”

Over the last 10 years, the number of events in the Canalway Corridor has increased dramatically to include concerts, arts festivals, cycling and paddling events, celebrations of local foods and beverages, and events that focus on history and heritage. According to the NYS Canal Corporation website, the 2017 calendar held more than 470 events.

The recent opening of the NYS Canal System also marks the 100th anniversary of the Erie Barge Canal in 1918. This year’s event highlights include: the 20th Anniversary of Cycle the Erie Canal bike tour, organized by Parks & Trails New York, and the cross canal journey of the Corning Museum of Glass GlassBarge, traveling with Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s canal schooner Lois McClure.

Read the full Canal Event Analysis and Visitor Research Study here.

The overall impact of the NYS Canal System measured in this report is impressive and marks the most recent look at the value this historic waterway provides to the more than 200 communities located along the corridor. In 2014, Parks & Trails New York and the NYS Canal Corporation released an economic impact study of the Erie Canalway Trail that revealed that the 1.6 million annual visits to the trail generate an economic impact of more than $250 million. 

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor spans 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York, encompassing the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Oswego, and Champlain canals and their historic alignments, as well as more than 230 canal communities. Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission and the Erie Canalway Heritage Fund work in partnership to preserve our extraordinary heritage, to promote the Corridor as a world class tourism destination, and to foster vibrant communities connected by the waterway.