Canalway Trail saw 30 percent increase in users last year

Posted 15 March 2021 at 10:00 am

4 million visitors on towpath and trail system in 2020

Photo 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 in this photo from last April. The trio from Brockport walked stretches of the Erie Canal almost every day, gradually working their way from Brockport to Lockport. That’s about 40 miles along the towpath.

Press Release, Parks and Trails New York, New York Power Authority

ALBANY – Use along the Erie Canalway Trail and Champlain Canalway Trail increased in 2020 by about 30 percent with 4 million users last year, according to the 2020 Who’s on the Trail report from Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation.

The Canalway Trail system as a whole saw an estimated 4.2 million visits in 2020, including just under 4 million visits to the 360-mile Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Buffalo and approximately 288,000 visits to the 90-mile Champlain Canalway Trail between Waterford and Whitehall.

The visits to the Erie Canalway Trail show a more than 30% increase over 2019 usage figures. These figures reflect the significant investments that were made as part of the completion of the Empire State Trail, and the increased interest and participation in outdoor recreational activities due to Covid-19.

“The Erie and Champlain Canalway Trails have proven to be an invaluable resource for individuals seeking refuge and recreation during these difficult times,” said Brian Stratton, Canal Corporation director. “Their integration into the recently completed Empire State Trail allows outdoor enthusiasts an opportunity to experience our iconic Canal system and the bucolic landscapes of Upstate New York. The Canal Corporation was proud to complete several trail projects in 2020, which not only closed gaps along the trail, but also enhanced the overall safety and experience for all trail users.”

In 2020, PTNY counted visits at seven locations along the Erie and Champlain Canalway Trails. Electronic counters recorded usage at Tonawanda, Camillus, DeWitt, Canastota, German Flatts and Schoharie Crossing on the Erie Canalway Trail and at Schuylerville on the Champlain Canalway Trail.  All seven locations saw the heaviest use on weekends and holidays, suggesting the trail is particularly popular for recreational activities. Peak usage for all locations occurred between May and September, though the busiest month varied by location.

The majority of locations for which there was data for both 2019 and 2020 showed significant increases in visitation, with usage at Lock E-18 in German Flatts more than doubling in 2020. Niawanda Park in Tonawanda saw the highest number of annual visits ever recorded along the Erie Canalway Trail, with over 300,000 cyclists, walkers, runners, joggers, and other users enjoying the trail.

Each year PTNY issues a Who’s on the Trail report that provides a detailed summary of trail use at several sites along the Erie and Champlain Canals. Locations vary each year to ensure that usage is measured in all parts of the state.

The reports include the most popular stretches of trail and the most popular day, time, and season for trail use. Collectively, these numbers tell a compelling narrative about the trail’s popularity and offer further justification for continuing to invest in these popular resources. Click here to see the full report.

The usage figures are based on a methodology employed by the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Alta Planning and Design to estimate the annual number of users (8.6 million) expected to use the now-complete 750-mile Empire State Trail.

“The increase in visitors to the Canalway Trail system in 2020 is a testament to the critical importance of the trail as public health infrastructure, providing opportunities for New Yorkers across the state to get outside during the pandemic,” said Robin Dropkin, Executive Director of Parks & Trails New York. “The completion of the Empire State Trail has made the trail an even more valuable resource, filling in gaps and creating connections that make the trail more accessible to all. We expect visitation to the Canalway Trail system to continue to increase as more New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors take advantage of this popular resource for recreation and tourism.”