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nature & waterways

145 entries submitted to reimagine state canal system

Photos by Tom Rivers: Runners gather on a bridge in Seneca Falls over the Seneca-Cayuga Canal, which is part of the state’s canal system. This photo was taken on Dec. 9 when Seneca Falls hosted “It’s A Wonderful Run,” a 5K race with more than 5,000 participants.

Posted 31 January 2018 at 2:18 pm

Tolls for recreational boaters will be waived again on canal in 2018

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

The New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation announced that 145 entries have been received for a $2.5 million competition that seeks the best ideas to enable the state Canal System to become an engine for economic growth and a world-class tourism destination.

“I am excited at the positive response to our Reimagine the Canals competition,” said Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of NYPA, which runs the Canal System as a subsidiary. “It’s apparent that this competition has sparked a lot of creative thinking about how to ensure New York’s canals can prosper today and in the decades to come.”

A statue of Amelia Bloomer, a women’s rights activist, is part of the Sculpture Trail in Seneca Falls.

Submissions for the Reimagine the Canals Competition came from nine states and seven nations, including from as far away as India and Vietnam. Eight finalists are expected to be announced in April, with the final winning entries slated to be named in September.

The goals of the competition include soliciting programs and initiatives that promote the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreational asset and as a source of sustainable economic development. Initiatives were also sought that uphold the heritage of the Canal System, which marks its centennial this year, as well as the long-term financial sustainability of the Canal Corporation.

“This is a rare opportunity to forge a new direction for an iconic asset that shaped not only the history of this state, but the nation as well,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “I’m confident many great ideas will emerge from this competition that point toward a bright future for our canals.”

Entries were submitted on two separate tracks, one for infrastructure; the other for programs that have the potential to increase recreational use and tourism.

A global panel of judges will select up to eight finalists, who will receive up to $50,000 to further develop their proposals for the final round. The judges will then recommend two or more winners, who will receive $250,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the scope of the project.

The Canal Corporation Board of Directors, at the NYPA and Canals Board Meeting, on Tuesday also approved a plan to waive tolls for recreational vessels in 2018, as the State continues to commemorate 200 years of Erie Canal history by marking the 100th anniversary of the current 524-mile Canal System’s opening in 1918.

This is the second straight year that tolls—normally $25 to $100 for a season pass, depending on the size of the vessel—have been waived. Last year, recreational boaters traveled for free to celebrate the bicentennial of the start of construction for the Erie Canal. This year is the 100th anniversary of the Barge Canal’s first opening to traffic.

The New York State Canal System, the third generation of the iconic Erie Canal which opened in 1825, today includes the Erie, Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca and Champlain Canals. It was formerly called the Barge Canal, which was built, starting in 1905, to accommodate larger vessels and better enable the canals to compete with railroads for freight traffic.

This year’s navigation season on the Erie Canal is slated to begin May 15 and will run through Oct. 10. The Oswego, Cayuga-Seneca and Champlain canals are expected to be fully open by May 19.

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Grants available to help fund events, festivals along canal

Photo by Tom Rivers: A woman uses a Hydro-Bike in the Medina Canal Basin on Aug. 10 near the Lois McClure. The 88-foot-long boat was built like a replica of one from 1862. It doesn't have an engine and is pulled by a tugboat. Medina celebrated the boat’s visit with a series of events over two days.

Staff Reports Posted 15 January 2018 at 12:24 pm

The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, in partnership with the NYS Canal Corporation, is offering a limited number sponsorships up to $500 for events or festivals taking place in the National Heritage Corridor from May through November 2018.

Qualifying events must promote or celebrate the distinctive historic, cultural, scenic, or recreational assets of the canal corridor.

Eligible applicants include municipalities and nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations. Applications are due by February 16.

The bicentennial period (1817-1825) of the canal system continues in 2018, which also marks the centennial of the currently operating NYS Canal System (Barge Canal). Events that mark these anniversaries will be given priority consideration for funding.

“We  are also placing increasing emphasis on recreational experiences that help people explore and enjoy the waterway, Canalway Trail, and surrounding communities and heritage assets,” the Heritage Corridor said in a news release. “Cycling, paddling, adaptive sports, hiking/walking events will be given priority consideration.”

For more information on the grants, including an application, click here.

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Snowy Owls don’t mind the cold

Staff Reports Posted 26 December 2017 at 8:51 pm

KENDALL – Doug Boyer of Waterport took this photo of a Snowy Owl today at about noon at the corner of Petersmith Road  and Lakeshore Road in Kendall. It was hanging out on a barn at Heideman Farms.

The owls typically nest in the Artic tundra and winter in Canada don’t mind the recent local temperatures in the single digits and teens. But in recent winters they have migrated into the U.S. in search of food.

Boyer enjoys wildlife photography and is a frequent contributor to Orleans Hub.

On Dec. 16 he took this photo of a Snowy Owl on West Kendall Road.

Boyer was at Point Breeze on Christmas Eve and took this photo of a bald eagle.

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Judges named for ‘Reimagine the Canals’ competition

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Canal Basin in Medina is pictured in this recent photo.

Posted 20 December 2017 at 9:06 am

$2.5 million competition seeks to transform canal system

Press Release, NYS Canal Corporation, NY Power Authority

WHITE PLAINS—The New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation have announced the panel of landscape architecture, economic development and parks experts who will judge a $2.5 million global competition that seeks the best ideas to transform the state’s Canal System

“The deep well of experience that this panel offers ensures we will identify the highest-quality entries from among the many we expect to have submitted,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA president and CEO. “The judges have been visionaries in their own lines of work and stewards of significant projects that have already been built. They are eminently qualified to determine which Canal competition entries have the most potential.”

The judges for the Reimagine the Canals Competition are:

• Carol Ash, Chair and Founding Trustee of the Carey Institute for Global Good and a former New York State parks commissioner

• Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive of Scottish Canals

• Richard M. Larrabee, former Director of the Port Commerce Department at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

• Mia Lehrer, Founder and President of Studio-MLA, a landscape architecture firm

• Holley Leicht, Executive Vice President of Real Estate Development and Planning at Empire State Development

• Hugh O’Neill, President of Appleseed, a firm that provides economic research and economic development planning to government, nonprofits and corporations

• Darlene Upton, Executive Director at Parks Canada in charge of waterways and parks and historic sites in Ontario

“We’ve worked with some of these panelists on other projects and know they are passionate about improving the New York State Canal System,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Entrants should take comfort in knowing the merits of their ideas will be fully evaluated given the wide range of expertise among the judges.”

The Reimagine the Canals Competition was created to encourage visionary and implementable ideas that will transform how people use and experience the 524-mile state Canal System, which includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals. The competition is seeking entries that:

• Enhance the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreation asset

• Promote sustainable economic development along the canals

• Recognize the heritage and historic values of the Canal System

• Bolster the Canal System’s long-term financial sustainability

The deadline for entries is Jan. 12, 2018. Up to eight finalists will be selected and awarded up to $50,000 to further develop their proposal for the final round. NYPA and the Canal Corporation will work with teams to identify local partners to advance the finalist projects, such as a municipality—there are 226 towns, villages and cities the canals pass through—or a state or local nonprofit that does canal-related work. The judges will recommend two or more winners to receive $250,000 to $1.5 million, depending on the scope of the project.

For more information, visit www.canals.ny.gov/reimaginethecanals.

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Rare sight in December: a full canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 December 2017 at 12:18 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers 

ALBION – The Erie Canal is pictured today in Albion with the Gaines Basin Road bridge in the background.

The canal is typically drained this time of year. The State Canal Corporation emptied the canal last month but it has been refilled so the Canal Corporation can inspect culverts, said Steven Gosset.

The canal will be dewatered again shortly, Gosset said.

A Canada goose is pictured today in Albion by the canal.

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Snowy Owl spotted by Parkway in Kendall

Staff Reports Posted 28 November 2017 at 8:27 pm

Photo courtesy of Krista Nicolaisen

KENDALL – This Snowy Owl was spotted today around 8 p.m. in Kendall by the entrance of the Lake Ontario State Parkway by the Lakeshore/East Jones Beach Road. Snowy Owls used to be an unusual sighting in Orleans County but in recent winters many have come to Orleans County.

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Canal Corp. says tree stumps will be removed with grass surface to be established

Photos by Tom Rivers: Mohawk Valley Materials from Utica cuts down trees next to the towpath in Albion on Friday. This section was just west of the Brown Street bridge. The company started clearing trees along the canal last month in medina and is working its way east to Fairport.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 November 2017 at 11:33 am

ALBION – Canal Corp. officials say they know they trees being cut down along the fringe of the towpath is a shock for many in the community. The strip will look better than its immediate state when the trees are cut down, an official said Friday in Albion. The stumps will be removed and grass seed will be spread.

The tree removal is phase one of a vegetation management project.

The New York State Canal Corp. has hired Mohawk Valley Materials from Utica to remove vegetation on the Canal Corp. right of way.

The Canal Corp. will be taking down trees on 145 acres between Medina and Fairport. The contractor hired for the job won’t be touching any trees on privately owned land.

Trees are removed in Albion in the section near the Brown Street bridge.

The trees have roots that can burrow into the soil, going under the towpath and reaching the canal walls. That can make the canal vulnerable to leaks and weaken the walls, Canal Corp. officials said.

“Their removal will restore the integrity of the embankments and improve the Canal Corporation’s ability to properly manage their condition, keeping the communities that surround the canal safe from potential flooding due to structural failures,” the Canal Corp. states on its website. (Click here for the link to see more about the Vegetation Management Project.)

The tree-cutting crew is working its way east along the canal after starting in Medina last month.

The Canal Corp. posted this section of Frequently Asked Questions about the project:

Q: Why are we undertaking a vegetation management program?

A: Together with the New York Power Authority, the Canal Corporation is taking steps to strengthen and reinforce Erie Canal embankments in Monroe and Orleans counties. This work primarily involves removal of trees and other vegetation, which can weaken embankments through root structure growth. NYPA and the Canal Corporation are taking proactive, appropriate measures to ensure the embankments are restored to their design condition, free of vegetation and roots. This type of vegetation can provide pathways for seepage, which can potentially weaken embankments and result in failure, leading to flooding of lands surrounding the canal. Furthermore, the heavy vegetation prevents Canal employees and other inspectors from being able to thoroughly monitor the integrity of the Canal’s embankments.

Q: What is the scope of the project?

A: The work will take place in phases. First, any required environmental protection measures will be installed. Next, smaller brush will be cleared, followed by the cutting of trees. Brush and trees will be removed from the site of work or may be chipped on site. Eventually the tree stumps will be excavated and removed and the affected area will be regraded. As the work progresses, all disturbed areas will be restored by establishing a grass surface that the Canal Corporation will maintain.

Sections of the towpath are closed while the contractors take down trees. This spot is just west of Main Street in Albion.

Q: What impacts will this project have on your property?

A: The Canal Corporation has taken care to assure the work is being done exclusively on property it owns to ensure your land remains undisturbed. Please contact us regarding any potentially impacted permitted structures on Canal lands at 518-449-6026. Canal personnel will be happy to come to your property to do an assessment and help you determine whether the structure(s) in question should be temporarily moved.

About the New York State Canal Corporation

New York’s canal system includes four historic canals: the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca. Spanning 524 miles, the waterway links the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. The canals form the backbone of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and connect hundreds of unique and historic communities. In 2017, New York is celebrating the bicentennial for the start of the Erie Canal’s construction.

Trees are cleared out on the north side of the canal between Main and Ingersoll streets in Albion on Friday.

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Fishermen from many states converge on Oak Orchard

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 October 2017 at 9:55 am

‘It’s the beauty of being in the river this time of year’

WATERPORT – There are many out-of-state anglers, even Canadians, in Orleans County this weekend fishing the Oak Orchard River. The parking lot by the Waterport Dam on Friday had vehicles with license plates from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, and Ontario, Canada. There were also numerous cars and trucks from New York State.

Fishing is Orleans County’s biggest tourism draw, accounting for about $12 million in revenue.

Dale Wetzel drove 300 miles from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. He has made the trip every fall the past 15 years with some friends.

He had caught a Chinook salmon, a brown trout and rainbow trout by late Friday morning.

“I love this,” Wetzel said. “It’s great.”

John Grant of Ontario, Canada, said the fish have been more elusive to catch this year at the Oak Orchard. But Grant, 78, didn’t regret making the effort to come to Orleans County, especially on Friday when the temperature was about 60 degrees.

“It’s the beauty of being in the river this time of year,” he said. “A day like this, if you’re a billionaire you couldn’t buy it.”

Grant said he has been coming to the Oak Orchard “for years and years.”

“It’s a good river,” he said. “It gets a good run of fish.”

The spot near the Waterport Dam is a popular one for anglers.

These two fishermen are shown near the dam on Friday morning. Anglers said more fishermen would show up later in Friday and over the weekend.

Anglers fish close to the Waterport Dam.

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Fly fishermen return for annual tournament at Archery Club

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 October 2017 at 4:04 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

WATERPORT – The St. Mary’s Archery Club on the Oak Orchard River has welcomed about 50 participants in the club’s annual fly fishing tournament from today through Friday.

The fishermen include Joe Harkay, front, who made a 400-mile trip from New Jersey to fish in the tournament. Harkay, 79, is a past champ of the event.

He has been a regular at the Oak Orchard River the past decade. He used to go to the Salmon River at Pulaski, but Harkay said the crowds are big and it’s much more costly to fish up there.

“They’re all gentlemen here,” he said about the fishermen. “This is pure fishing.”

The Oak Orchard is deeper than usual and that has made it tougher to catch fish because they are harder to see in the water and they are more elusive. Harkay likes the challenge.

“The fish have a better chance,” he said. “At the (Waterport) Dam the fish are corralled. The fishermen there are meat hunters.”

The Archery Club runs a catch-and-release tournament with prizes for the biggest Chinook salmon, brown trout, Atlantic salmon and steelhead.

Out-of-state participants have come from Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Maine, Connecticut and two from South Korea.

It is a beautiful day to be on the river with the sun shining and high temperatures at about 70.

The Oak Orchard River is a popular spot in the fall with anglers trying to catch big salmon and trout.

Ben Smith, 12, peers into the water, trying to see a salmon. Ben was fishing with his father and two younger brothers. They traveled about 300 miles from near Harrisburg, Pa.

Shane Smith, right, fishes with his youngest son, Beckett, 7. Shane is the father of Ben Smith, in the above photo. Ben’s other brother, Brayden, is 10. The three brothers had a friendly rivalry to see who could catch the biggest fish.

Shane has been fishing at the Oak Orchard for nearly 30 years, first going with his father. Now it’s a three-generation trip for the family.

Duane Putnam, a member of the Archery Club, has a batch of French fries ready for the fishermen. Jeff Holler, in back, checks on chicken. The Archery Club is serving breakfast and lunch daily through Veterans’ Day on Nov. 11. There is a cost for the meals, and a $10 fee to park at the club to go fishing.

The club last year built a new pavilion to extend the kitchen. Putnam and Holler said the extra space has made it much easier to have food ready for the fishermen.

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