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Gillibrand pushes for elevated historic status for Barge Canal

Posted 15 April 2016 at 12:00 am

File photo Tom Rivers – This tugboat in Albion stands out in the fog, with the Main Street lift bridge in back, in this photo from May 31, 2015.

Press Release, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today wrote to the National Park Service urging for the New York State Barge Canal to be designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The NYS Barge Canal extends through Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo and includes the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal, stretching 525 miles across New York State. This designation would provide additional economic development and tourism promotion opportunities.

“The New York State Barge Canal shaped the course of settlement in the Northeast, Midwest, and Great Plains, and established New York City as the nation’s premiere seaport and commercial center,” said Senator Gillibrand. “For over a century, New York’s canal system has played an influential role in the economy and development of the region and our country. This designation would be another national highlight of New York’s rich history and strengthens our commitment to preserving our landmarks.”

In this photo from the Orleans County History Department, crews work on the retaining walls at the Canal Basin in Medina on April 3, 1914. It was part of the Barge Canal expansion about a century ago.

The National Park Service in October 2014 announced the Barge Canal was on the National Register of Historic Places. Gillibrand now is pushing for a higher designation.

The Erie Canal opened in 1825. The Barge Canal represents the widening of the canal between 1905 and 1918. Many of the bridges, guard gates, waste weir systems and other canal infrastructure remain in use today.
Gillibrand, in her letter to the National Park Service, highlighted that during the 1850s the canal carried 33,000 shipments and by 1882, carried over $120 million dollars in cargo. Today, the canal is used for recreational purposes, contributing to New York’s tourism economy.

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to the National Park Service Director is included below.

Mr. Jonathan B. Jarvis
Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Director Jarvis,

I write in support of the nomination of the New York State (NYS) Barge Canal to be designated as a National Historic Landmark (NHL). Listing as a National Historic Landmark would be a logical step in appropriately honoring the nationally-significant role that New York’s canal system has played in our country. Furthermore, NHL designation would be timely and appropriate, helping to raise the waterway’s stature and creating additional economic development and tourism promotion opportunities.

The NYS Barge Canal system is composed of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal, and the Champlain Canal, and stretches 525 miles through New York State. New York State’s Erie Canal has been in continuous operation since 1825 and has played a pivotal role in the growth and development of not only New York State but the country.

It facilitated and shaped the course of settlement in the Northeast, Midwest and Great Plains, and established New York City as the nation’s premiere seaport and commercial center. The Erie Canal alone originally stretched 363 miles from Albany, New York to Buffalo, New York. During its peak in 1855, the canal system carried 33,000 shipments and by 1882 the canal had carried over $120 million dollars in cargo. Today the canal is used almost entirely for recreation, open for walking, jogging, biking and cross-country skiing, contributing to New York and the nation’s tourism economy.

As we approach the Barge Canal’s Centennial year in 2018, as well as the observance of the Erie Canal’s Bicentennial period between 2017 and 2025, NHL designation would help attract national and international attention during this important period of reflection and celebration.

Further, through the efforts of the NYS Canal Corporation and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, the World Canals Conference will be held in Syracuse in September 2017. This international event provides another opportunity to celebrate and promote the national significance of New York State’s Barge Canal system, which is about to embark on its 192nd year of continuous operation.

I ask that you please give the New York State Barge Canal’s application your full consideration.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gillibrand
United States Senator