Canal towns, villages complete revitalization plan
Municipalities develop ‘comprehensive strategy to transform the waterfront communities’
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.
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.
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.