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Hochul announces Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission planning many events in 2025

Posted 13 July 2024 at 9:49 am

State wants to celebrate canal’s 200th anniversary in a big way throughout next year

File photo by Tom Rivers: Kathy Hochul, shown on June 15, 2021 when she was the lieutenant governor, rows in a kayak in the Erie Canal in Medina. She was helping to promote the “On the Canals” program that offered free rental of kayaks and hydro-bikes.

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday announced the creation of the Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the completion of the original Erie Canal.

Initially introduced as part of the Governor’s State of the State Address in January, this new commission will ensure that the Erie Canal Bicentennial is recognized through community events, capital investments in canal infrastructure, and by telling the diverse stories that comprise the state’s relationship with this historic waterway. These tangible endeavors to be undertaken throughout 2024 and 2025 will set the tone and stage for the next century of operations and opportunities along the iconic New York State Canal system.

“The Erie Canal is an integral part of New York’s story, and as we commemorate the bicentennial of this important waterway, we will honor the Canal’s history while looking ahead to its vibrant future,” Governor Hochul said. “As a lifelong New Yorker and avid boater from Buffalo who has traveled the Canal, I understand the significance of this waterway on our State’s history, and what it means not only for the identity of so many upstate communities, but also their economic livelihoods.”

The celebration will culminate with the 2025 World Canals Conference in Buffalo, September 21-25, and the departure of the Seneca Chief, Buffalo Maritime Center’s replica vessel that will reenact Governor Dewitt Clinton’s 1825 inaugural cross-state journey along the Erie Canal to New York Harbor.

Leading up to the culminating events in Buffalo in 2025, the commission will support community events, capital investments in canal infrastructure, and the telling of diverse stories in recognition of the celebration’s theme, “Raising More Voices.” Some of these activities include:

  • Community Events: Numerous events across Upstate New York funded by the New York State Canal Corporation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor grant program.
  • Arts and Culture: Partnerships with New York State orchestras featuring emerging and diverse composers and offering canalside concerts and educational programing.
  • Academic Forums: In partnership with the State University of New York and the Department of State, the SUNY / Erie Canal Bicentennial Forum Series will include a schedule of public lectures and panel discussions covering a range of topics and hosted at SUNY campuses. These sessions will explore how the Canal system can be revitalized and maximized as a driver of upstate economic development and environmental stewardship.
  • Bicentennial Promotion Toolkit: Supported by funding from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and I LOVE NY, communities across the Canal can host local celebrations and promote consistent messaging, social media images and video, fact sheets, display banners and giveaways to build excitement and momentum toward September 2025.
  • Legacy Projects: Ribbon cuttings for major community waterfront enhancements and new investments in preservation projects and recreational trails and amenities.
  • Economic Development: Investment announcements from the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation to ensure the Canal remains an economic driver for upstate communities as it enters its third century of operation.

These events will highlight the vital role of the Canal system as a historic example of New York’s spirit of ingenuity and its contemporary role as a driver of upstate economies and as a public recreational asset.

To be co-chaired on a volunteer basis by First Gentleman of New York William J. Hochul Jr., and New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton, the commission will be responsible for the planning, scheduling, and execution of a series of public meetings and commemorative events throughout 2024 and 2025.

The commission co-chairs will be joined by honorary commission members including New York State Secretary of State Walter T. Mosley; Hope Knight, President, CEO and Commissioner of Empire State Development; and Randy Simons, Commissioner Pro Tem of the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation to set the stage for the next century of operations and opportunities along the 524-mile New York State Canal system.

First Gentleman and Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission Co-Chair William J. Hochul Jr. said, “As we near the 200-year mark of the Canal’s operation, I cannot think of a better group to lead our efforts in uplifting the diverse voices that make up the shared history of our canal. Growing up in Buffalo, I saw first-hand the significance of the canal to my community – not just for boating and recreation, but also as a steadfast driver of tourism and economic growth. I am proud to co-chair this commission alongside some of the brightest minds in our state, and I look forward to all the events and discussions to come.”

Canal Corporation Director and Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission Co-Chair Brian U. Stratton said, “On the eve of the Erie Canal’s 200-year anniversary milestone, we are excited to be working with Governor Hochul, the First Gentleman, and our stakeholders and agency partners to establish the Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission. The Erie Canal holds a special significance in New York’s history, and we will engage in a robust two-year plan to mark this anniversary and celebrate the next century of operations and opportunities along the entire Canal System to ensure a vibrant and more inclusive future. The Bicentennial Commission will acknowledge the historic waterway and its ongoing impact on upstate communities through community events, capital investments in canal infrastructure, and the storytelling of diverse narratives that tell New York’s and the nation’s profound relationship with this historic waterway.”

To stay informed of Erie Canal Bicentennial Commission activities and events, please visit www.canals.ny.gov.

Medina Rotary sees big growth in membership

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 October 2023 at 8:40 am

Retired NFL kicker Mike Vanderjagt spoke at club’s meeting on Wednesday

Photos by Tom Rivers: Some of the Medina Rotary Club members are shown Wednesday outside The Walsh in Medina where the group meets for lunch meetings at noon on the second and fourth Wednesdays each month. Pictured from left, first row: Skip Helfirch, President Peter Bartula, Stephanie Mason and Ben McPherson. Second row: Edee Hoffmeister and Gloria Brent. Third row: Barb Jantzi, Gary Lawton, Dan Doctor and Jennifer Hill-Young. Back row: Dawn Meland, J.T. Thomas, Carl Tuohey and Joel Payne. There are at least 10 other members in the club who aren’t pictured.

MEDINA – The Medina Rotary Club is on an upswing with a big increase in members and more projects to benefit the community.

In the past four years the club has grown from 8 to 25 members. It was recently notified by Rotary that Medina is in the top 4 percent of all Rotary Clubs in North America for growth in the past five years.

The club used to meet weekly and would fine people for missed meetings and happy events in their lives, whether getting a new car, celebrating an anniversary, being featured in the news or other life milestones.

But Medina Rotary now meets twice a month, the second and fourth Wednesdays for lunch at The Walsh. The club doesn’t fine members if they can’t make a meeting.

“You got to be realistic with folks whose lives are so busy,” said Ben McPherson, who was the club’s president during a big growth period from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2023.

McPherson praised the club’s long-time members for keeping Rotary alive in Edina during some lean years. The club maintains a friendly atmosphere among members with several community service projects in the works.

The club on Wednesday discussed several fundraisers including a $5,000 corn hole tournament on Jan. 6 at Dubby’s in Albion, a meat raffle on March 9 at the Ridgeway Fire Hall and a plan to add Buddy benches at Medina parks. Those benches would be made by students at the Iroquois Job Corps Center.

The club hosts a pickleball tournament, picks up trash along the canal, gives out scholarships and helps in other ways throughout the year.

“I saw that they were trying to better the community and that really spoke to me,” McPherson said about when he joined in 2019.

Mike Vanderjagt, center, is pictured with Medina Rotarians Carl Tuohey, left, and President Peter Bartula.

Vanderjagt recently moved to Lyndonville. A native of Canada, he wanted to be close to Lake Ontario and a short drive from Canada. He has been a volunteer kicking coach for the Medina football team and coaches other kickers in the region. One of his players, Medina’s Cole Callard, has emerged as a Division I kicking prospect as well as a soccer standout.

Vanderjagt scored 1,067 points in a nine-year career during the regular season, including a league high 145 for the Colts in 1999. He was first team, all pro in 2003 when he scored 157 points and made all of his kicks – 37 of 37 field goals and 46 of 46 extra points.

He scored 54 more points in nine playoff games. He played for the Colts for eight seasons and then finished his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006.

Vanderjagt said he enjoys living in Lyndonville and Orleans County.

“It’s a beautiful part of the country,” he said.

He also shared with Rotary about some of his business ventures.

Mike Vanderjagt, in red shirt, speaks with the Medina Rotary Club on Wednesday at The Walsh. The club often has speakers from the community share a program. The meetings are also a chance for members to provide updates on projects.

The group shares a meal together and strives to maintain camaraderie with no politics.

Gary Lawton has been a member for over 20 years. He said he is thrilled to see the club grow and do more work for the community.

At one point, the club was down to three active members. Now it is adding local business leaders, professionals from the school and hospital, retired residents and others.

“I’m so excited it’s growing again,” Lawton said.

4 new tugboats coming to Erie Canal

Photo courtesy of Canal Corp: This tugboat is named for Harriet Tubman and joined the Erie Canal fleet last October. The tugboat is shown in Rochester, near Tubman’s home and final resting place in Auburn.

Posted 7 August 2023 at 8:00 am

Press Release, New York Power Authority and NYS Canal Corp.

The New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation have announced a strategic investment in the future of the New York State Canal system through the procurement of four new maintenance marine vessels.

The new tugboats will be operated by Canal Corporation personnel and positioned along the 524-mile Canal system to support the continued operation and maintenance of the statewide navigable waterway.

The first two tugboats are scheduled to be delivered in 2025, the bicentennial year of the Erie Canal, with two additional tugs planned for delivery in 2027.

“With more than 200 communities along its banks, an investment in New York State’s Canal system is an investment in the upstate economy,” said New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation Trustee and Syracuse Area Canal Recreationist Bea Gonzalez. “The Canal Corporation’s workforce that maintains this historic and vital water transportation route and recreational asset will leverage these new tugboats to ensure our children and grandchildren can enjoy all of the benefits the Canal system offers for many decades to come.”

New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “Once placed into service, these new maintenance vessels will give our dedicated personnel the opportunity to complete their tasks safely while operating aboard modern tugboats equipped with the latest marine technology. As stewards of the Canal system, we know how important the iconic waterway is to so many communities. These new work boats will help ensure the canals continue to support economic development, community building, and expanded recreational uses across our great state for years to come.”

Staffed by Canal Corporation tugboat captains and floating plant personnel, the new steel inland tugs, each 64.5-feet long, will support operations required to maintain navigation along the Canal system. Some of this work includes buoy placement and retrieval, movement of spoils in hopper scows, transporting of dredge pipe, and mobilizing hydraulic and mechanical dredge units. In addition, the new tugs will have ice breaking capabilities built into them such as thicker steel and tighter spaced framing in the bow.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “These four new tugboats are a significant investment into the Canal Corporation’s maintenance fleet that routinely ply the waters of upstate New York. For nearly two centuries the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals have been economic engines – supporting livelihoods and commerce while spurring the growth of villages, towns, and cities – and this investment ensures our workforce can efficiently maintain the canal’s navigable waters for the next generation of users.”

In 2017, the Canal Corporation contracted with AENY, located in Northport, NY to perform a vessel assessment of its floating equipment. Based on the assessment, a long-term plan was developed to replace the aging fleet. The construction of the four new vessels will be in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard Sub-Chapter M regulations and a U.S. Coast Guard Certificate of Inspection will be obtained.

When delivered, the new tugs will be placed into service alongside the Tug Syracuse, a 1934 tugboat built by the State of New York that has been the workhorse of the maintenance fleet since its launch. The new tugboats also will join the Canal Corporation’s Harriet Tubman, one of 10 smaller push tugboats that have been added to the fleet over the past five years.

The Board of Trustees for the New York Power Authority, which owns and operates the New York State Canal Corporation as a subsidiary, awarded the contract to Blount Builders Inc. of Warren, Rhode Island at its July 27 meeting.

In 2020, Blount Builders Inc. successfully delivered the Breaker II, a tugboat owned and operated by the New York Power Authority that supports its generation of electricity and champions ice breaking activity in the winter months along the Niagara River in Western New York.

Grants available for programs, projects along the Erie Canal

Photo by Tom Rivers: Medina used a $10,500 “IMPACT!” grant from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor towards an ADA-accessible kayak launch that was installed in September 2021.

Posted 9 January 2023 at 10:31 am

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The New York State Canal Corporation, through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor are offering competitive grant funding to support tourism and recreation along the New York State Canal System including canal waterways and Canalway Trail.

The 2023 program will support tourism infrastructure and amenity improvements, and events. Applications are open now through Feb. 24.

Funding is open to counties, municipalities, units of local government, not-for-profit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes.

The grant program includes two funding categories: Event Support, with an award range of $500 to $3,000, and Tourism Infrastructure & Amenity Support, with an award range of $5,000 to $24,000. Applicants may apply for one or both categories.

“New York’s Canals and their surrounding communities have become destinations for local residents and tourists seeking unique recreational activities and provide opportunities to explore all of what our state has to offer, and it is essential to provide support to ensure continued growth and improvements,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “Through this grant program, we are excited to renew our commitment to preserve and expand all that our shared waterways and trails offer and look forward to seeing visitors enjoying the flourishing Canal System as we continue to build on its role as a cornerstone of the New York experience.”

In 2022, 38 nonprofit organizations and municipalities received NYS Canal System Tourism Infrastructure and Event Grants totaling $259,300. The grants supported 11 tourism infrastructure and amenity improvements and 27 events.

Interested applicants are invited to attend an informational Q&A session on Thursday, January 26, 2023 at 10am. For details, Q&A registration, and online application, click here.

“Investing in recreational amenities and heritage-based events is essential to the Corridor’s health, both in terms of improving residents’ quality of life and by facilitating the economic impacts of tourism. We are pleased to collaborate with the NYS Canal Corporation on this initiative and align our revitalization strategies,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Canal towns, villages complete revitalization plan

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 January 2022 at 10:07 am

Municipalities develop ‘comprehensive strategy to transform the waterfront communities’

Photo by Tom Rivers: Ed Flynn, director of planning at LaBella Associates, goes over a Canal Corridor Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the villages of Albion and Holley, and the towns of Albion, Murray, Gaines, Ridgeway and Shelby. He is speaking at a recent County Legislature meeting. The Village of Medina has developed its own waterfront plan.

ALBION – A group of local officials that studied how to better utilize the Erie Canal has completed its plan and submitted it to the state for a final review.

A steering committee developed a Canal Corridor Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the villages of Albion and Holley, and the towns of Albion, Murray, Gaines, Ridgeway and Shelby. The Village of Medina decided to work on its own waterfront plan and has submitted it to the state for a final OK.

The plan outside of Medina along the canal includes upgrading downtown buildings, developing a new marina in Albion, installing kayak launches and signage.

The county received a state grant for $62,000 to develop the plan and hired LaBella Associates as a consultant on the project. Ed Flynn, director of planning at LaBella, presented the final plan to the County Legislature recently.

He called the plan “a comprehensive strategy to transform the waterfront communities.” It is the first plan in the county that is focused on better utilizing the Erie Canal. The plan, which identifies many priority projects, will be an asset in helping the municipalities pursue state grants for the initiatives and also setting a clear course for the future, Flynn said.

Courtesy of Labella Associates: A committee looking at ways to better utilize the Erie Canal has suggested a privately owned marina that offers gas and other services would draw more boating traffic to the Albion area.

The steering committee set four goals with the plan:

1. Leverage the Canal’s Recreational Resources – capitalize on the canal’s wealth of land and water-based recreational sources.

2. Stimulate Tourism along the Canal – attract local, regional and national visitors to promote the long-term sustainability of the Erie Canal.

3. Accelerate Revitalization of Corridor Communities – investments in villages, downtowns, and anchors along the corridor will improve the economy and quality of life for Orleans County residents and benefit businesses and tourists.

4. Promote the Corridor’s Identity, Sense of Place, and History – protect, promote and leverage the canal corridor’s unique character and culture to advance the revitalization of Orleans County and the corridor communities.

The steering committee identified eight priority projects that provide access to the waterfront, increase recreational opportunities and advance economic development opportunities.

Some of the proposed priority projects include:

  • Canal Corridor Building Assistance Program: would provide grant funding of up to $600,000 to assist multiple buildings or an anchor building with interior and exterior improvements. Albion and Holley have both received New York Main Street grants for building improvements in the downtown.
  • Small Business Assistance Program: A countywide program with grant and loan funding to assist new and existing businesses with growth, with restaurants and culinary operations getting the priority.
  • Activate the Canal Waterfront: Repurpose underutilized spaces, including parking lots, which could be turned into performance space and improved aesthetically with landscaping and lighting. The initiative would include rear facade upgrades and enhanced water recreation opportunities. The committee used the Village of Albion’s parking lot by the canal near Platt Street as an example of space that could be improved. The committee suggested Albion redesign and resurface a parking lot by the canal, adding lighting and landscaping and making the space available to be used for concerts and events.
  • The committee suggested Albion redesign and resurface a parking lot by the canal, adding lighting and landscaping and making the space available to be used for concerts and events.

    Increase Water-Based Recreation Facilities: Add kayak and boat launches, piers and tie-ups in the villages of Albion and Holley. The area needs private entities to offer kayak rentals.

  • Construct a marina in Albion: A private marina is needed that offers gas services, tie-ups and other services.
  • Install signage along the Canal: There needs to be signs with distances to the next ports and nearby canal communities. There should also be signs directing people to businesses and services.
  • Winter Recreation Program: This could include “pop-up” temporary ice skating rinks, cross country skiing and winter festivals.
  • Siphon for agriculture: Siphoning water from the canal reduces agriculture costs and also can be used to provide water for creeks and fishing.

Some other projects identified by the steering committee include: Arts along the canal with statues and public art relevant to the canal and county; Trail connections to natural areas (Groth Road in Murray and Presbyterian Road in Knowlesville area); Celebrate the Holley canal loop with pavement, lighting and signage; Attract a rental business offering bikes and kayaks; Promote tugboats; Upgrade the towpath trail surface for bikes, increase the number of events and redevelop the Murray quarry ponds for recreation.

The plan has been submitted to the Department of State for a final review.

Canalway Corridor seeks grant applications for projects with an impact

Photo by Tom Rivers: This mural on the Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport was completed this summer by Albion native Stacey Kirby Steward. It was partially funded with an IMPACT! grant from the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. The mural is based on the illustration of a children’s book, The Erie Canal, by Peter Spier.

Posted 9 September 2021 at 3:16 pm

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is now accepting applications for its IMPACT! grant program.

The grants range from $2,500 to $12,000 and will be awarded to municipalities, not-for-profits with a 501(c)(3) designation, and federally-recognized Native American tribes within the boundaries of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Applications are due by Friday, October 15, 2021.

“These grants provide critical funding for a host of projects that would not happen otherwise. We are eager to help communities and organizations across the state boost economic activity while safeguarding and celebrating our cherished canal heritage,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

The grant program is competitive, and applications should focus on one or more of five key priorities: showcasing the canal corridor’s distinctive sense of place, protecting canal historic and natural resources, promoting recreational opportunities, creating “must-do” travel experiences, and spurring heritage-based economic growth.

A one-to-one match consisting of non-federal support is required and the awards are distributed on a reimbursement basis at project completion.

This grant program is made possible with support from the National Park Service and the New York State Canal Corporation.

“Grants like IMPACT! allow us to be good stewards of our State’s history and land by providing us with the vital opportunity to help preserve the Canal System by boosting heritage-based economic growth along the corridor,” said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brain U. Stratton. “We at the Canal Corporation are excited to see all of this year’s applicants and their commitment to honoring the Canal System and all it has to offer.”

Applicants are strongly advised to contact program staff to discuss proposed projects prior to submitting an application. Please contact: Andy Kitzmann, 518-237-7000 x201, andy_kitzmann@partner.nps.gov.

For more information, click here.

The bridge at Eagle Harbor has long provided canal crossing

Posted 8 September 2021 at 5:29 pm

This 1909 postcard photo taken by W.C. Eaton of Jeddo, shows Main Street, Eagle Harbor, looking north.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 1, No. 21

EAGLE HARBOR – The hamlet of Eagle Harbor has seen more traffic of late as many avail of its convenient bridge because the Knowlesville bridge on Route 31 is still “Closed” or “Out.”

Named for the eagle’s nest found in a tree there by Canal surveyors in 1815, Eagle Harbor’s growth was due to Canal trade.

In 1894, it boasted a hotel, livery, wagon shop, meat market, grist mill, school, three general stores, two churches, and two blacksmiths. The following photographs from the History Dept. provide interesting visual images of Eagle Harbor’s history.

The old steel arch bridge is visible in this bustling scene.

This 1911 postcard photo also taken by W.C. Eaton, of Jeddo, shows the early stages of the bridge reconstruction project which was necessitated by the widening of the Erie Canal.

This massive reconstruction project was thoroughly documented by the New York State Barge Canal (Western Division). This photograph is labeled “South Wall of Trough, Eagle Harbor, Looking East, 4/12/12”

“Eagle Harbor Waste Weir, Looking S.E., 4/10/1912”

A temporary wooden bridge over the Canal at Eagle Harbor, 1912.

The construction of the Erie Canal presented several engineering challenges and lead to the development of several new types of bridge design. The vertical lift bridge at Eagle Harbor is one of the longer spans of this bridge type. It is one of seven lift bridges in Orleans County.

According to www.historicbridges.org: “This bridge features end posts which extend above the top chord, with a tastefully designed curved plate providing a visual and structural transition from the top chord to the top of the end post…..this bridge stands on its own as a beautiful eye-catching landmark for the area.”

New pedestrian walkway over canal will be a bridge to the future

Posted 19 March 2021 at 7:39 am

This rendering of a new pedestrian bridge over the Erie Canal in Brockport, a span that will connect the Brockport State College campus to the Empire State Trail.

Editor:

The Village of Brockport is a focal point of the State’s $300 million Reimagine the Canals initiative, as the site of a new multi-functional pedestrian bridge connecting the village and SUNY Brockport across the Erie Canal.

This is the first large-scale infrastructure project to begin under the Reimagine program. Constructed next to the early 20th century guard gate that controls water flow in the Canal, the bridge will link the south side of the Canal at SUNY Brockport to the Empire State Trail on the north (village) side.

That connection is important, and not just to the college and village. The Empire State Trail is a tremendous resource for outdoor recreation — hiking, running, biking, kayaking, fishing — for locals and visitors alike.

The bridge provides the stimulus for the completion of the “Brockport Loop,” a joint college/village endeavor to create a walking trail on the south side of the Canal from the new pedestrian bridge east to the village’s high bridge at Smith Street over the Canal.

That bridge will undergo renovations to make it more accessible for cyclists and pedestrians. The Smith Street bridge, like the new pedestrian bridge, directly connects to the Empire State Trail, thus completing the loop.

The Canal holds immeasurable potential as a driver for economic growth and activity in our village. In 2005, we completed our Welcome Center on the Canal; visiting boaters tie up and take advantage of Welcome Center greeters, shower, and laundry facilities, and Wi-Fi.

We will be building a pavilion there for hosting our popular summer serenades program on the Canal, and an adaptive kayak dock is scheduled to be installed at the Welcome Center this spring. The recently formed Brockport Community Rowing Club, working to bring rowing to Brockport, has built a dock at the college near the site of the new pedestrian bridge. The bridge will help the club achieve that goal as, among its other functions, it has been designed for viewing regattas that can be hosted on our stretch of the Canal.

Brockport began almost 200 years ago as a transport and shipping hub on the Erie Canal. Though commercial shipping is long gone from the Canal, we and other Canal communities have celebrated its reincarnation as a recreational waterway and driver of tourism.

The Reimagine the Canals initiative, and the new pedestrian bridge it has fostered, is a capstone to this reincarnation. For Brockport, this is an investment in our economic future and a chance to ensure the Canal and its accompanying trail remain a central and functional part of our community.

Margaret Blackman

Mayor of the Village of Brockport

Medina awarded grant for kayak launch on Canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 14 January 2021 at 9:22 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: A dock is pictured in Medina’s Canal Basin in this photo from a recent fall day. Medina has received a grant to add a kayak launch at the canal.

MEDINA – The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor announced a $10,500 grant today to help develop and install an ADA-accessible kayak launch on the Erie Canal in downtown Medina.

This is one of 13 Erie Canalway IMPACT! grants for non-profit organizations and municipalities. The grants total $108,787 and will advance projects that preserve and showcase canal heritage, educate youth and welcome people to explore the canal in their local communities, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor said in a news release.

The grants range from $1,500 to $12,000 and will leverage an additional $146,630 in private and public project support.

“As the pandemic continues to present abnormal challenges it is especially gratifying to support diverse canal inspired innovations,” said Bob Radliff, executive director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “We are so pleased to make these timely investments and contribute to the resilience of our canal communities.”

The organization now has made 96 grants to communities and non-profit organizations since 2008 that have spurred $2.49 million in additional investments in heritage preservation, recreation, and education, Radliff said.

The IMPACT! grants are made possible with funding support provided by the National Park Service and the NYS Canal Corporation.

“We are proud to support this year’s IMPACT! grant recipients as the winning projects will positively improve canalside communities while ensuring the New York State Canal System continues to drive economic growth while safeguarding the environment and preserving the history of the nation’s most iconic waterway for the next generation,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton.

The 2021 Erie Canalway IMPACT! grant awards include:

  • Buffalo Maritime Center, Buffalo – Award: $12,000 to create an exhibit dedicated to the Haudenosaunee alliance of Native Americans and Erie Canal history to complement Buffalo Maritime Center’s building of the Packet Boat, Seneca Chief.
  • Canal Society of New York State, Port Byron – Award: $5,300 to install wayside signs to improve outreach and accessibility to cultural and natural resources at the Erie Canal Heritage Park at Port Byron.
  • Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum, Chittenango – Award: $9,967 to produce a virtual 3-D tour of the museum complex to expand outreach efforts and create new opportunities for education. In addition, develop a STEM-based distance learning program for youth blending concepts of robotics and canal infrastructure.
  • City of Amsterdam – Award: $11,757 to institute creative, place-based visitor enhancements at Riverlink Park and Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook.
  • Corn Hill Navigation, Pittsford – Award: $11,388 to implement a variety of educational initiatives aboard the Sam Patch, including a bird watching tour in partnership with the Montezuma Audubon Society, and hands-on learning for students in the Erie Canal Environmental Education program, which blends STEM, history, and environmental curriculums.
  • Erie Canal Museum, Syracuse – Award: $11,000 to partner with restaurants and other local businesses to offer public programming on the Erie Canal’s relationship to food, specifically as it pertains to agriculture, irrigation and transportation of goods.
  • Erie Canal Discovery Center/Niagara County Historical Society, Lockport – Award: $4,180 to support the development of five virtual lessons on the history, geography, engineering and national impact of the Erie Canal.
  • Lumber City Development Corporation, North Tonawanda – Award: $3,500 to install a historic mural near the dock area at Gateway Harbor Park in the City of North Tonawanda, enhancing the beauty of the park for visitors while establishing a strong sense of place and heritage.
  • Montezuma Audubon Center, Savannah – Award: $10,865 to organize a Canalway Conservation Corps to develop early detection invasive species management programs and STEM-based educational opportunities at the Montezuma Wetlands Complex.
  • Village of Brockport – Award: $4,830 to enhance Brockport’s self-guided walking tour by upgrading tour materials and interpretive panels.
  • Village of Medina – Award: $10,500 to develop and install an ADA accessible kayak launch located on the Erie Canal in the heart of downtown Medina.
  • Village of Newark – Award: $1,500 to repair vandalism damage to a prominent Erie Canal themed mural on the canalfront and guard against further damage or deterioration with protective coatings.
  • Western New York Land Conservancy, Inc., East Aurora – Award: $12,000 to transform an unused rail corridor into The Riverline, an iconic, innovative, and inspiring nature trail and greenway along the Buffalo River near the terminus of the Erie Canal.

Final public meeting set for proposed priority projects along Erie Canal

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 October 2020 at 12:56 pm

Proposals include building upgrades, a new marina, assistance for restaurants, kayak launches, signage

Courtesy of Labella Associates: A committee looking at ways to better utilize the Erie Canal has suggested a privately owned marina that offers gas and other services would draw more boating traffic to the Albion area.

ALBION – A group that has been meeting for about a year, brainstorming ideas to better utilize the Erie Canal, has identified several projects.

The committee is developing a Canal Corridor Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the villages of Albion and Holley, and the towns of Albion, Murray, Gaines, Ridgeway and Shelby. The Village of Medina has developed its own waterfront plan.

Albion and Holley would benefit if there were kayak launches in the villages along the canal, according to the Waterfront Advisory Committee.

The county received a state grant for $62,000 to develop the plan and hired LaBella Associates as a consultant.

The committee will hold a final public meeting Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at The Lockstone at 160 North Main St. Natasha Wasuck, owner of the Lockstone, is one of the committee members.

The public can attend the meeting in person or check in through Zoom videoconferencing (click here). The meeting ID is 827 3351 7976 and the passcode is 694534. Dial by your location at +1 929 205 6099 US (New York).

The Local Waterfront Advisory Committee will go over the final plan, including eight priority projects. The committee sought projects that provide access to the waterfront, increase recreational opportunities and advance economic development opportunities.

The plan will help the county and participating municipalities with future funding opportunities.

Some of the proposed projects include:

• Canal Corridor Building Assistance Program: would provide grant funding of up to $600,000 to assist multiple buildings or an anchor building with interior and exterior improvements. Albion and Holley have both received New York Main Street grants for building improvements in the downtown.

• Small Business Assistance Program: A countywide program with grant and loan funding to assist new and existing businesses with growth, with restaurants and culinary operations getting the priority.

• Activate the Canal Waterfront: Repurpose underutilized spaces, including parking lots, which could be turned into performance space and improved aesthetically with landscaping and lighting. The initiative would include rear facade upgrades and enhanced water recreation opportunities. The committee used the Village of Albion’s parking lot by the canal near Platt Street as an example of space that could be improved.

The committee suggested Albion redesign and resurface a parking lot by the canal, adding lighting and landscaping and making the space available to be used for concerts and events.

• Increase Water-Based Recreation Facilities: Add kayak and boat launches, piers and tie-ups in the villages of Albion and Holley. The area needs private entities to offer kayak rentals.

• Construct a Marina in Albion: A private marina is needed that offers gas services, tie-ups and other services.

• Install Signage along the Canal: There needs to be signs with distances to the next ports and nearby canal communities. There should also be signs directing people to businesses and services.

• Winter Recreation Program: This could include “pop-up” temporary ice skating rinks, cross country skiing and winter festivals.

• Siphon for Agriculture: Siphoning water from the canal reduces agriculture costs and also can be used to provide water for creeks and fishing.

• Some other projects: Arts along the canal with statues and public art relevant to the canal and county; Trail connections to natural areas (Groth Road in Murray and Presbyterian Road in Knowlesville area); Celebrate the Holley canal loop with pavement, lighting and signage; Attract a rental business offering bikes and kayaks; Promote tugboats; Upgrade the towpath trail surface for bikes, increase the number of events and redevelop the Murray quarry ponds for recreation.

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Canal grants available for projects that make an impact

Posted 14 September 2020 at 1:09 pm

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor is now accepting applications for its IMAPCT! Grant program. The grants range from $2,500 to $12,000 and will be awarded to municipalities, not-for-profits with a 501(c)(3) designation, and federally-recognized Native American tribes within the boundaries of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Applications are due by Friday, October 23rd.

“Over the past 12 years, we have awarded 83 grants to communities and non-profit organizations that have spurred $2.35 million in additional investments in heritage preservation, recreation, and education,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “We are eager to provide much-needed funding to help organizations get projects off the ground this year.”

The National Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor apporoved $60,000 of IMPACT! grants for eight projects in canal communities in 2020. None of the projects receiving funding are in Orleans County, but one includes repairs to a mural at the Lift Bridge Book Store in nearby Brockport.

The grant program is competitive, and applications should focus on one or more of five key priorities: showcasing the canal corridor’s distinctive sense of place, protecting canal historic and natural resources, promoting recreational opportunities, creating “must-do” travel experiences, and spurring heritage-based economic growth.

A one-to-one match consisting of non-federal support is required and the awards are distributed on a reimbursement basis at project completion. This grant program is made possible with support from the National Park Service and the New York State Canal Corporation.

“Our state’s canals helped build the New York we have today, and the IMPACT! Grants program supports Governor Cuomo’s ongoing mission to both preserve the system’s rich history and showcase all that it has to offer New Yorkers,” said Brian U. Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation. “These grants have helped communities and organizations across the state boost economic activity while safeguarding the critical environments and historic sites along our canals, and during this exceptionally difficult time for New York, we are thrilled to once again support these efforts in partnership with the Heritage Corridor and the National Park Service.”

Applicants are strongly advised to contact program staff to discuss proposed projects prior to submitting an application. Please contact: Andy Kitzmann, 518-237-7000 x201, andy_kitzmann@partner.nps.gov.

For more information, click here.

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Cuomo announces $300 million plan for Erie Canal communities

Renderings courtesy of Governor’s Office: One proposal calls for lighting up the movable dams in Amsterdam and Canajoharie in the Mohawk River valley.

Posted 6 January 2020 at 12:26 pm

“Reimagine Erie Canal’ would grow tourism, reduce flooding in canal towns, and improve irrigation for upstate farmers

Press Release, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled a $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal by creating recreational activities on the Canal to boost tourism, mitigating flooding, enhancing irrigation and recreational fishing and restoring wetlands.

The governor is recommending the New York Power Authority Board, which now oversees the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary, approve the $300 million investment over the next five years at the board’s January meeting.

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st century needs,” Governor Cuomo said. “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail, grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s Canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”

A first phase of funding will start this year that will have two parts: a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the Canal and a separate $65 million investment in solutions that will help prevent ice jams and related flooding in the Schenectady area.

The remaining $135 million of the plan’s funding will subsequently be allocated to research recommended by the Reimagine Task Force, as well as to solutions related to flood mitigation, invasive species prevention and ecosystem restoration.

New Economic Development Fund for Canal Communities

In the first phase of the program, a $100 million economic development fund will support projects that adaptively reuse canal infrastructure to enhance water recreation, tie the Canal’s new recreational improvements to the Governor’s Empire State Trail, celebrate historic canal structures, and develop unique canalside attractions and activities. Roughly $25 million of that will be allocated immediately to a set of initial projects:

• Connecting Communities: The “Brockport Loop” project in Monroe County will connect SUNY College at Brockport to the Empire State Trail and the village of Brockport through the transformation of a canal guard-gate into a pedestrian bridge and overlook, with a supporting grant of $2 million from the Ralph Wilson Foundation.


• Celebrating “Iconic Infrastructure”: Interactive, hydro-powered illumination of Canal “movable dams” – initially in Amsterdam and Canajoharie in the Mohawk River valley – will celebrate the Canal’s heritage and its history as an engineering marvel.


• Expanding Water Recreation: A new whitewater destination, at the north end of Cayuga Lake near Seneca Falls, will rely on existing water control infrastructure to construct an active water sports course adjacent to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, to increase eco-tourism and sport visitors to the region.


• Adapting Industrial Property for New Uses: Winner of the Reimagine the Canals competition, a canalside pocket neighborhood, will be developed by Madison County in Central New York at a former industrial property in Canastota along the Old Erie Canal – demonstrating a new model for 21st century canalside living.


• Developing Destination Accommodations: The historic Guy Park Manor, on the Mohawk River in Amsterdam, will be reborn as a hospitality destination and a pedestrian bridge constructed across the already-existing Canal lock will provide access to additional overnight accommodation along the Empire State Trail on the opposite side of the river.

Resiliency Improvements Strengthen Canal Communities

To help mitigate chronic summer and winter flooding in the Mohawk River Valley, an initial allocation of approximately $65 million will be used for deploying an icebreaker and undertaking dredging and filling in certain portions of the Mohawk to prevent ice jam formation; developing an Ice Jam Monitoring and Early Warning System to better alert communities to potential flooding; and retrofitting the New York Power Authority’s Vischer Ferry power dam in Niskayuna to help mitigate summer flooding and ice jams around the Schenectady and Scotia areas, including the historic Stockade District.

At the recommendation of the Task Force further studies will be undertaken to better assess additional approaches to both reducing flood vulnerability in the Mohawk and tackling the rise of aquatic invasive species across the Canal.

Improved Irrigation for Farmers

The plan also includes establishment of an irrigation district in Western New York to enhance drought resiliency by ensuring that farmers in those counties have reliable access to water during the critical summer growing season. Guaranteed access to water is needed to expand the production of high-value fruits and vegetables, specifically in areas that today cannot access canal water.

To ensure water is available during periods of low rainfall, canal outflow infrastructure will be modernized as part of a “smart water management system” that can better respond to changing weather conditions. A new grant program operated by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will underpin additional private-sector investment in irrigation infrastructure.

World-Class Fishing and Restored Wetlands

To create world-class fishing in Western New York, the new plan recommends managing water releases from the Canal to enhance fish habitat, improve angling opportunities, and extend the fall fishing season in Lake Ontario tributaries. It also includes funding to expand public fishing access along key streams in Orleans, Monroe and Niagara counties.

In addition, it identifies a program to divert Canal water to restore and re-nourish wetlands in Central New York that were compromised a century ago by the Canal’s construction. This will allow areas in close proximity to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, a migratory stopover for more than 1 million birds each year, to be significantly enhanced to further attract naturalists, locals, and visitors from throughout the region and beyond.

Reimagine the Canals Task Force Shares Recommendations in Report

Ideas in this plan originated from the Reimagine the Canals Task Force recommendations. The Reimagine the Canals Task Force, launched by Governor Cuomo in May of 2019 to pursue a comprehensive investigation of how the 195-year-old Erie Canal could be reimagined for the 21st century, issued its full set of findings to the Governor today in an official report. The Task Force set out to:

• Identify potential new uses for the Erie Canal aimed at improving the quality of life for New Yorkers

• Evaluate how the Erie Canal can support and enhance economic development along the canal corridor

• Identify new opportunities to enhance recreation and tourism along the Erie Canal

• Assess how the Erie Canal can help mitigate impacts from flooding and ice jams to improve resiliency and restore ecosystems in canal communities, and

• Discover opportunities for using Erie Canal infrastructure to expand irrigation for Western New York farms.

The Task Force is chaired by Joanie Mahoney, New York State Thruway Authority chair and former Onondaga County Executive. Mahoney is overseeing Task Force work in Central New York. Former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy serves as regional co-chair in Western New York, and Joseph Martens, former Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, serves as regional co-chair in the Mohawk River valley.

In addition to economic development and operational recommendations, the findings, detailed in the Reimagine the Canals Task Force Report released today, include solutions for strengthening storm resiliency along the waterway, improving irrigation for farmlands, expanding fishing opportunities in Western New York and restoring wetlands in Central New York.

The Task Force engaged with municipal leaders, stakeholders, local business owners, scientists and other experts, along with community members, to identify opportunities and solutions that support a new vision for future investments in the waterway. Many of the ideas that the Task Force explored came from the completed Reimagine the Canals competition, held last year by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation. SUNY’s Rockefeller Institute of Government, on behalf of the Task Force, conducted a series of outreach sessions during the summer in five canal communities – Lockport, Brockport, Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse – to solicit new ideas from the public at large. Ideas were also solicited on a Reimagine the Canals website, offering more distant canal users an opportunity to provide their views to the Task Force.

The “Reimagine” initiative builds on successful efforts by Governor Cuomo to invest in the canal corridor, including the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and successful Taste NY program, which have stoked new industries, businesses and housing in canal communities. Harnessing the Canal’s full potential to attract more tourism and recreation is a key focus of the Initiative. Governor Cuomo and state agency and authority staff will collaborate with Empire Line communities and continue to consult with Task Force members and other stakeholders to ensure the success of projects as they move forward.

There are 1.6 million trips taken annually on the Erie Canal Trailway, the former towpath used by mules and horses to pull barges in the canals’ early days. The Trailway is part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail, which at 750 miles will be the largest state multi-use trail network when completed in late 2020. Governor DeWitt Clinton began work on the original Erie Canal on July 4, 1817.

“As an upstate New Yorker who lives near the Erie Canal and is a frequent visitor to canal communities, I know how this plan to reimagine the canal can unlock even more potential to make it a major tourism magnet,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “The canals have played a crucial role in New York’s history and growth, and with the implementation of these new exciting projects, the canals will remain a vital force and make a positive contribution to the economic well-being and quality of life in the 225 communities they travel through.”

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Local mills proved essential for growth of communities

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 28 December 2019 at 8:49 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 48

ALBION – This image, taken in the early 1920s, shows the Woods & Sprague Mill located on East State Street in Albion. The mill relied largely on water from the West Branch of Sandy Creek, which passes under the Erie Canal at this location. Looking east, the Brown Street Canal Bridge is visible in the distance and the image is part of a series that shows leakage from the Canal into the foundation of the mill.

The history of this mill dates back 1819 when William Bradner purchased 266.5 acres of land from the Holland Land Company for the sum of $1,159.00. According to Arad Thomas, Bradner relocated from Palmyra and purchased several lots of land including Lot 35 from William McAllister. Aside from the construction of an early sawmill, Bradner’s grist mill included mill stones which he personally cut by hand in Palmyra.

Grist mills provided an essential service to local farmers, particularly in the years preceding the construction of the Erie Canal. According to Gaines pioneer John Proctor, the closest grist mill to his property was Black Creek, nearly 25 miles away. However, the path to that mill was so difficult to traverse that the 30-mile trek to Rochester was much faster.

Arad Thomas noted in the Pioneer History of Orleans County that “the people of Kendall took their grain to Rochester, or to Farwell’s mill in Clarendon, to be ground. Farwell’s mill was much nearest, but the road to it was almost impassable with a load, and the little mill had not capacity to do all the work in that part of the country.” In response, residents constructed grist mills within their community; Ose Webster constructed a mill at Kendall Mills around 1819 which resolved the travel constraints highlighted by Thomas.

In colonial New England, the grist mill provided its owner with a symbol of status in the community. Millwrights possessed skills that bridged across the talents of carpenters, smiths, and masons, making their work far more valuable and desirable than blacksmiths. As bread represented a dietary staple, millwrights and millers were often viewed as life-givers in their communities.

The same held true for early mill owners in Orleans County. Needing flour to sustain their families, local grist mills provided farmers with the ability to grind wheat into flour and corn into meal. With little means of transporting surplus crops to market, many mills operated in conjunction with distilleries until the Erie Canal opened in 1825.

A land deed from 1834 shows a transfer of ownership from Freeman Clarke to Joshua Rathbun for the sum of $10,000 – quite the increase in value from Bradner’s 1819 purchase price. Rathbun would eventually share “mill privilege” with Roswell Clark in an 1844 deed transfer for the sum of $10.00 at which point the records reference Bradner’s “old grist mill.” That same year, the property was sold at public auction to Alexis Ward for the sum of $2,000.

An 1849 advertisement in the Rochester Daily Democrat advertised the sale of the building, noting the mill was “propelled by water and steam, or either…it has four runs of 4.5 ft stone. Custom and Merchant Bolts mostly new and everything in good running order. A large and commodious warehouse has been recently added, and a storehouse for barrels.”

The mill lot was sold to Orson Tousley from Wilson & Ward in 1853 for $12,200 and John B. Lee was brought in as a partner in 1855 when he purchased half-interest for $6,000. Tousley & Lee sold out to Jerome Lee, John Lee’s nephew, in 1858 and the property once again sold to Hannah Smith in 1879. George Sprague purchased the lot from Smith in 1886, thus starting the line of ownership that would lead to the Woods & Sprague partnership.

Once located behind the present-day Community Action building on East State Street, an August 23, 1934 article in the Medina Tribune highlights the last legs of this historic structure. “A modern structure having supplanted it, the more than century-old Woods and Sprague grist mill in Clarendon Street between the Barge Canal and East State Street, which marks the birthplace of milling in Albion, is being torn down.”

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Ideas shared to better utilize Erie Canal in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 October 2019 at 4:18 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Brian Sorochty, mayor of Holley, speaks during a Waterfront Advisory Committee meeting in Albion on Tuesday. Sorochty would like to see a brand developed for the canal towns, and marinas with gas and other services for boaters.

There are widewater locations on the canal that are underutilized that might be ideal for the marina locations, Sorochty said.

He was among about 40 people at a meeting Tuesday evening at Hoag Library. They are working to develop a Canal Corridor Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan for the villages of Albion and Holley, and the towns of Albion, Murray, Gaines, Ridgeway and Shelby. The Village of Medina has developed its own waterfront plan.

The meeting included a hands-on, interactive workshop for people to identify potential projects and strategies with long-term community and economic benefits along the Canal Corridor.

The county received a state grant for $62,000 to develop the plan and hired LaBella Associates as a consultant.

Samuel Robinson, 19, is the Village of Albion representative on the committee. He said the communities need to consider people who ride bikes and uses public transportation in the community. There also needs to be more “fantastic activities for youth.”

The workshop on Tuesday was the first in a series of three public participation meetings that will be held over the next six months. Future public meeting will focus on a review of potential revitalization projects and the final recommendations for the plan.

LaBella handed out stickers and asked people to rank their highest priorities along the canal. Red-colored stickers signified the highest priority, with green the second highest, yellow the third highest and blue the fourth highest priority.

Many of the red stickers went by economic development, with a goal to boost investment and job opportunities in the canal communities. That includes a better environment for small businesses in the downtowns, as well as commercial, industrial and agriculture growth.

The farming sector would benefit from continued use of siphoning canal water for irrigation. The canal bridges also need to be strong enough to handle farm equipment, the group said.

Top priorities also went to more programs – community events, concerts, races, competitions and historical event celebrations – along the canal.

Some people wanted to see an improved streetscape, with more trees in the downtown, safer cross walks, and signage directing people to services and attractions. The canal towns should also have interpretive panels to better explain local history and the canal’s role in developing the towns.

Adam Johnson (pictured), owner of the 39 Problems bar and restaurant on Main Street in Albion, said the downtown would be more pedestrian friendly if the travel lanes on Route 98 were narrower. That would encourage drivers to slow down, and give more room for pedestrians.

He also wants to see more trees in the downtown, and diagonal parking on one side of the Main Street so there is more parking.

The canal path itself would benefit from lighting, so people would feel safer walking in the evening and at night, Johnson said.

In Holley, he’d like to see the original canal bed cleaned out and promoted. There are numerous former quarries along the towpath and Johnson said they should have signs on them, so people would appreciate the area’s Medina sandstone heritage.

The group also favors having distance markers on the towpath, to inform cyclists, boaters and other users how close they are to a town.

This sign is on the west side of the Main Street lift bridge in Albion. Adam Johnson said there should be more signage in the commercial area of the village, instead of waiting until people may have passed by the community.

Johnson also sees opportunities to use the canal in the winter, because there is some water that remains. Johnson said it could be used for ice skating and other winter sports.

There also should be more launches along the canal for people with kayaks, he said.

Community members including Albion Village Trustee Stan Farone, right, put stickers to signify their priorities for projects in the canal communities.

The Waterfront Advisory Committee will meet again in November to review the ideas from Tuesday’s workshop. Ed Flynn, director of planning at LaBella, said community members can email him other ideas for the committee to consider. His email is eflynn@LaBellaPC.com.

The waterfront plan could be used by the canal communities to pursue state funding for projects, Flynn said.

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Governor looking for best ideas to revitalize canal corridor

Posted 18 May 2019 at 10:50 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Photo from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office: A new tugboat was named after women’s rights pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton during an unveiling in Rochester on Friday, when the Erie Canal opened for its 195th season. The canal played a significant role in the women’s rights movement.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Friday announced a sweeping initiative to examine how the 195-year-old Erie Canal can be reimagined for the 21st century in an effort to boost local economies, inspire new opportunities for tourism and recreation, and strengthen environmental resiliency along the historic waterway.

A key pillar of this initiative is the Governor’s Reimagine the Canal Task Force.

“The Erie Canal corridor is one of New York’s most iconic assets and remains a key economic driver for the region and the state,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Canal helped make New York the Empire State and this initiative will reimagine the canal and adapt it for new uses in upstate communities, furthering upstate New York’s unprecedented growth.”

“The New York Canal System is not only an iconic recreational destination, it is also an essential part of our economic past, present, and future,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who made the announcement. “As we kick-off the 2019 Canal season, we launch the next phase of Reimagine the Canals with a task force to guide bold and innovative new ideas. In addition, we celebrate the Erie Canal’s role in shaping the flow of ideas throughout our history by dedicating a new vessel in honor of New York suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her legacy as a leading voice and activist for voting rights inspires us today as we work to secure full equality for all women.”

The Governor’s groundbreaking initiative will:

• Identify potential new uses for the Erie Canal aimed at improving the quality of life for New Yorkers

• Evaluate how the Erie Canal can support and enhance economic development along the canal corridor

• Find new opportunities to enhance recreation and tourism along the Erie Canal

• Assess how the Erie Canal can help mitigate impacts from flooding and ice jams to improve resiliency and restore ecosystems in canal communities

• Identify opportunities for using Erie Canal infrastructure to expand irrigation for Western New York farms

To help meet those goals, Governor Cuomo has created a task force that is an outgrowth of the Reimagine the Canals Competition, held last year by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation. The competition rewarded the best ideas to enable New York’s canals to serve as an engine of economic development or spark new forms of recreation. This task force will explore many of the ideas that the competition has already produced. The New York Power Authority operates the Canal Corporation as a subsidiary.

“There are 147 communities along the Erie Canal and we should do everything we can to help them become more resilient,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Just as it transformed New York when it opened nearly 200 years ago, the Erie Canal can be transformed so it remains an essential piece of the fabric that defines upstate New York.”

File photo by Tom Rivers: The task force may look for ways for farmers to utilize canal water. This photo from June 2016 shows a siphon just west of the Keitel Road bridge in Albion. Area farmers struggled in drought conditions that year.

The task force will be chaired by Joanie Mahoney, New York State Thruway Authority chair and former Onondaga County Executive, who will also oversee outreach in Central New York. Former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy, will serve as regional co-chair in Western New York, while Joseph Martens, former Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, will serve as co-chair in the Mohawk Valley. Other members will be announced in the coming weeks.

The panel is also expected to examine how canal infrastructure can be used to increase the reliability of the water supply to farms in Western New York—which now draw water from the Canal—and can enable additional land to be used for agriculture.

Helping guide the task force will be the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, a part of the State University of New York. It will work to engage stakeholders and canal communities, a process that will include a series of public meetings across the state where residents, business owners and municipal leaders can provide input on the Canal’s future.

The reimagining initiative builds on successful efforts by Governor Cuomo to invest in the canal corridor, including the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and Taste NY, which have stoked new industries, businesses and housing in canal communities.

Harnessing the Canal’s full potential to attract more tourism and recreation is a key focus of the Initiative. There are 1.6 million trips taken annually on the Erie Canal Trailway, the former towpath used by mules and horses to pull barges in the canals’ early days. The Trailway is part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail, which at 750 miles will be the largest state multi-use trail network when completed in late 2020.

The navigation season on the Canal System, which includes the Erie, Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain and Oswego canals, runs today through October 16. About half of the system, including parts of the Erie Canal, along with the Champlain and Oswego canals, had their openings postponed due to high water flows stemming from heavy rains and snow melt.

For the third straight year, tolls have been waived for recreational vessels

Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky said, “Reactivating former industrial waterfronts has fueled economic growth throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic and it’s only fitting that the Erie Canal-a game changer for the New York State economy when it opened—will further help to create jobs and opportunity in the communities along its banks.”

Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Erie Canal is an important water source to a number of farms along its western banks. This task force offers the opportunity to now look at expanding the use of the Canal to minimize the risk of drought on our farms and support the production of high-value crops, specifically fruits and vegetables.”

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