Lt. Gov. in Medina to launch ‘On the Canals’ program to bring visitors to Orleans

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 June 2021 at 5:37 pm

YMCA will run program for 8 weeks this summer, renting kayaks and hydro-bikes for free

Photos by Tom Rivers: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul rows in a kayak this afternoon in the Erie Canal in Medina. She was helping to promote a program for 8 weeks this summer with free rental of kayaks and hydro-bikes.

MEDINA – There will be free rentals of kayaks and hydro-bikes this summer in Medina, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said today during a stop at Medina’s Canal Basin.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said the state is pushing to make the canal a bigger impact in the canal towns.

She also went kayaking in the canal and was joined by Medina Mayor Mike Sidari, Greg Reed of the Orleans County YMCA, and Brian Stratton, director of the state Canal Corp.

Medina is one of five canal communities offering free “On the Canals” outdoor excursions this summer as part of the state’s Reimagine the Canals initiative. The other communities in the program include Macedon, Waterloo, Savannah and Amsterdam.

Hochul said the state is making a big tourism push to get New Yorkers and out-of-staters to vacation and experience sites all over the Empire State. She believes Medina will appeal to many people, especially with a historic downtown filled with local businesses.

“Medina has everything anyone can look for in a mini-vacation,” she said.

She has visited the Parade of Lights several times, which is held in late November, and has come to the community many times, including by boat, just for a getaway with her husband.

“Medina oozes charm,” she said. “It is an untapped jewel.”

In the new program offering kayaks and hydro-bikes, the New York Power Authority (which oversees the canal) will partner with the Orleans County YMCA. The hydro-bikes and kayaks will be available to rent with appointments made online. The YMCA will lead excursions at Glenwood Lake and the Canal.

Greg Reed of the YMCA said the programs will be twice a day Friday through Sunday at Glenwood Lake, and three times a day in the canal on Tuesday through Thursday. The program starts June 25. The website isn’t activated yet for appointments.

“As New York continues to reopen and New Yorkers get outside to enjoy everything our State has to offer, we are pleased to provide free recreational opportunities to explore our State in a way that has never been done before,” Governor Cuomo said in a news release this afternoon. “The ‘On the Canals’ excursion program will breathe new life into the Canal system, inviting both residents and visitors to kayak, bike, and fish along our historic waterways. I encourage all New Yorkers to come out and celebrate the natural beauty of our State’s Canals and support our local canalside communities and economies.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference at Medina’s Canal Basin. She praised the Medina community for creating a destination. Pictured from left include Greg Reed, Orleans County YMCA director; Dawn Borchet, Orleans County tourism director; Medina Mayor Mike Sidari; New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton; and New York Power Authority Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Joe Kessler.

Building on last year’s successful “NY Canal Staycations” program, which featured kayaking on the Canal system and cycling on the Empire State Trail, this year’s “On the Canals” itineraries will expand the types of activities offered to also include birding tours, hydrobiking, and fishing. The “On the Canals” locations and itineraries include:

  • Cruise the Canal by Kayak & Hydro-bike in Medina: Free guided kayak and hydrobike tours on the Erie Canal at the Medina Canal Basin
  • Fish & Kayak at Medina Falls: Guided fishing excursions on Glenwood Lake to see Medina Falls and the historic aqueduct
  • Off Road, On the Water: Bike & Kayak in Palmyra-Macedon: Paddling on the Erie Canal and pedaling along the Empire State Trail
  • Biking & Boating in the Finger Lakes Wine Country: Bike and water taxi loop via the Cayuga-Seneca Trail and Cayuga-Seneca Canal
  • Montezuma Wetlands: In Search of the Bald Eagle: Guided birding tour via kayak in the Montezuma Wetlands
  • Travel a Lock: A Kayak & Bike Adventure in Amsterdam: A trip between Port Jackson and the historic Yankee Hill Lock

Brian Stratton of the Canal Corp. said the state is committed to seeing the canal be a vibrant part of upstate. The Canal Corp. will celebrate the 200thanniversary of the canal’s opening in 2025.

“We have a responsibility to protect and honor its historic legacy,” Stratton said.

He wants to see the Canal Corp. and local communities better utilize the canal for fun activities and to give businesses a boost.

The Village of Medina wants local residents and visitors to have more fun experiencing the Erie Canal.

The Canal Corp. last fall kept water in Orleans for an extra month and released it to increase water flow in streams, helping the local fishery, which has a $29 million annual impact in Orleans County, said Dawn Borchet, county tourism director.

She praised the Canal Corp. and the local leaders “for constantly looking for ways to reimagine the canal.”

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton tries a hydro-bike at the canal at Medina.

The canal is now under management of the New York Power Authority, which is spending $140 million annually on the 524-mile system.

Joe Kessler, New York Power Authority executive vice president and chief operating officer, said many people discovered the canal and the small canal towns last year through “stay-cations.”

The new initiative announced today will bring more people to the canal communities to experience the canal and other nearby attractions, he said.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, Cuomo and NYPA committed $300 million over five years to revitalize the Erie Canal corridor as a tourism and recreation destination while simultaneously boosting economic development and improving the resiliency of canalside communities.

“As an upstate New Yorker who lives near the Erie Canal and is a frequent visitor to canal communities, I know how vital the Erie Canal is to generating economic activity for local businesses and creating jobs,” Hochul said. “With the free ‘On the Canals’ excursion program, many New Yorkers will be able to experience the Erie Canal for the first time, while visiting the many charming communities along the Canal and providing a tourism boost for local businesses. There is no better time to explore what New York State has to offer.”