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Canal Corp. will plant shrubs and small trees by towpath

Photos by Tom Rivers: Nick Schwartz, a landscape architect with CHA Consulting, discusses the plan to have shrubs near the top of the towpath, grass on the slope and trees at the bottom of the embankments.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 February 2019 at 9:18 am

Vegetative screening next phase of project which took out many big trees on canal embankment

Tree stumps were removed last week from this section near the towpath in Albion, between Brown Street and Ingersoll Street.

ALBION – The State Canal Corp. said the towpath will look much better later this year, following a tree-clearing last year and the current removal of the tree stumps.

The Canal Corp. will be planting shrubs near the top of the towpath, grass and wildflowers on the slope of the embankments and small trees about 25 feet from the slope of the towpath.

After a tree clearing started in late 2017 through early 2018, many residents and elected officials in Orleans and Monroe counties complained about the loss of shade from the trees and privacy for the homeowners. The canal also looked unsightly with the tree stumps remaining for about a year. Two contractors have been hired and have been taking out the stumps this winter.

“It is quite shocking,” Eileen Banker, Albion mayor, said during a meeting about the next phase of the project at Hoag Library on Monday evening. “It looks like a war zone in some places.”

She urged residents to connect with the Canal Corp. and express what they want for shrubs and trees near their property line. She thanked the Canal Corp. for bringing a team to Albion to update the community on the project and next phase.

The Canal Corp. wants to hear from property owners along the canal about their preferences for trees, shrubs and grass as a screen for their property. The Canal Corp. also will consider input from elected officials for other screening on the canal where a property owner doesn’t make a request, said John Callaghan, deputy director of the Canal Corp.

Property owners can request a meeting with Canal Corp. officials about the landscaping by calling 518-449-6061 or sending an email to embankment.restoration@canals.ny.gov.

The Canal Corp. wants to develop the vegetative screening plans in March, working with arborists to determine trees that would thrive at the bottom of the embankments, as well as a variety of grasses and wildflowers for the slope.

The Canal Corp. presented some options for trees and shrubs, including red osier dogwoods, sugar maples, winterberry shrubs and green junipers. The Canal Corp. is open to other species as long as they have the potential to thrive.

Callaghan said the slope will be maintained for appearance and also so canal inspectors can easily check the embankments for leaks or other problems. The Canal Corp. and its landscape consultant will meet with property owners in April and May to develop specific plans near those sites.

The vegetative screening – shrubs, grasses and trees – are scheduled to be planted from June through October this year.

Doug Kucmerowski of Brockport, a member of Erie Canal Neighbors Association, initially opposed the tree-clearing but said he is very appreciative of the Canal Corp. for removing the trees and making the canal safer for residents who were at risk of a flood if the embankments leaked.

The Canal Corp. hired a contractor to take down numerous trees on the canal embankments in Orleans and Monroe. In October 2017, Mohawk Valley Materials from Utica started to remove trees on 146 acres of canal-owned land from Medina to Fairport.

The tree clearing made it to Spencerport until being halted in early February 2018 after a lawsuit from the towns of Brighton, Pittsford and Perinton.

The Canal Corp. pushed to have trees removed from the embankments because the root systems can cause seepage and potentially lead to erosion and potential embankment failure that can cause catastrophic damage and loss of life, the Canal Corp. said.

Some residents at the meeting Monday said the project has diminished the beauty of the canal and towpath, making it less of an attraction. Cyclists, walkers and joggers miss the shade and the view of a tree-lined towpath, residents said.

“I’m still appalled you cut down all of the trees,” said Anita McCarthy of Albion. “This is just ridiculous.”

Doug Kucmerowski of Brockport, a member of Erie Canal Neighbors Association, said he initially opposed the tree-clearing, and then did some research on why the project was needed. He said homeowners along the canal have been vulnerable to an embankment blowout due to the trees.

If an embankment failed, millions of gallons of water would be unleashed on properties, he said.

“I for one want to be safe,” he said. “These people are helping us. This is a safety project.”

The Canal Corp. will discuss the project today in Brockport during a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the A.D. Oliver Middle School, 40 Allen St.

Local residents and officials met with State Canal Corp. employees and their consultants to see renderings of vegetative screening along the canal where trees have been taken down.

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