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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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