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3 friends are walking the canal in stretches, from Brockport to Lockport

Photos by Tom Rivers: George Sokolsky, center, and his friends Jim Balmer, left, and Brad Alexander walk the Erie Canal in Albion while practicing social distancing.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 April 2020 at 9:01 am

‘You can still get outside and enjoy planet Earth.’ – George Sokolsky

ALBION – Three friends from Brockport are walking stretches of the Erie Canal almost every day, gradually working their way from Brockport to Lockport.

The trio heads west past the Main Street lift bridge in Albion.

That’s about 40 miles along the towpath. The three drive to near one spot, walk 2 or 3 miles, and then turn around and walk back to their vehicle. They do it again the next day, with a new starting about 2 to 3 miles west of where they previously started.

They decided to walk a long stretch of the canal when the pandemic hit which has slowed down commerce and kept many people inside.

“You can still get outside and enjoy planet Earth,” said George Sokolsky, owner of the Magic Works Vacuum Shop in Brockport.

Sokolsky, 76, has owned that business for 36 years. He has reduced his hours during the pandemic. That his given him more time for walks.

He is often joined by his friends, Jim Balmer, 66; and Brad Alexander, 68. Balmer works as a stack tester, measuring air pollutants from industry and other sources. Alexander has been self employed for 46 years.

The trio said there are some benefits of the pandemic. The pace of life has slowed down. That has offered a chance for friends and family to reconnect.

“All of a sudden I have more time,” Sokolsky said while walking the towpath in Albion.

The group has made it to Marshall Road in Medina, with Niagara County not too far away.

George Sokolsky, Brad Alexander and Jim Balmer are enjoying their walks along the canal, seeing the small towns and wildlife along the way. They are pictured on the Main Street lift bridge in Albion. These photos were taken before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to wear masks or face coverings when social distancing isn’t possible in public.

They have enjoyed the quiet stretches along the canal, seeing turkey vultures, blue herons, deer and other animals.

“It’s a lot more peaceful than I thought,” Balmer said. “My blood pressure has dropped.”

The three friends have also walked at Hamlin Beach State Park since the pandemic hit. They see many families out for walks.

“The people we see they are all outgoing and friendly,” Alexander said. “It’s quite a contrast from when you go into Walmart or Wegmans. You go in there and people are scared.”

Sokolsky urged more people to get out for walks on the towpath or the nearby state parks.

“The canal is a great resource and Hamlin Beach is just wonderful,” Sokolsky said. “I would encourage everyone to just get out and breathe.”

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