nature & waterways

Task Force will look at ‘reasonable measures’ for flood management along Erie Canal

Posted 4 July 2022 at 9:10 am

Press Release, Kathy Hochul’s Office

Photo by Tom Rivers: These cyclists head east past Presbyterian Road along the towpath in Albion in July 2017 when 650 cyclists passed through Orleans County for the annual Cycle the Erie Canal trip.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced that she has signed new legislation (S.8204a/A.9177) naming Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton as Chair of the Upstate Flood Mitigation Task Force.

The task force will identify and recommend reasonable measures that can be taken to enhance flood management and mitigation along the Erie Canal. The task force will meet for the first time on Aug. 22.

“As New York experiences more extreme weather events due to climate change, it is more important than ever before that we plan for and prioritize resiliency measures,” Governor Hochul said. “Countless New York communities are at risk of climate-related dangers like flooding and storm damage. By convening the Upstate Flood Mitigation Task force, we are taking action to identify flood mitigation strategies that will protect the people who live in communities along the Erie Canal, and ultimately help to relieve these communities from the impacts of repeat flooding.”

The new task force will explore the cost or impact of flooding along the Erie Canal over the last five years to agriculture, transportation, infrastructure, land use, public health, insurance, tourism, recreation, and power generation.

In addition, the task force will assess the canal system operation, procedures and plans that may impact flood mitigation and management and identify adaptive measures, with costs, that could be executed to mitigate flood damages. The taskforce will prepare a report by July 1, 2023, to publicly site its findings.

“I am pleased to serve as the designated chair of the Upstate Flood Mitigation Taskforce,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “By coming together with my state agency colleagues and leading subject matter experts in hydrology, civil engineering, conservation, and climate change, I am confident that the task force’s collaboration, research and recommendations will provide a roadmap for improved water management.”

DEC urges residents to take ‘I Bird NY’ challenge and identify 10 common birds

Posted 18 June 2022 at 9:27 am

Press Release, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced the start of the 2022 “I BIRD NY” challenges for beginning and experienced birders.

Two levels of challenges provide the opportunity to identify birds and learn about birdlife and offer a chance to win birding equipment. With the launch of many New York State Birding Trail segments this year, DEC will be increasing the chances of winning if participants find birds on a New York State Birding trail site.

“No matter where you live, birdwatching is a fun, easy, affordable activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, abilities, identities, and backgrounds,” said Commissioner Seggos. “This summer is a great time to start birding or take your birding skills to the next level by observing birds in the diverse variety of habitats and locations the New York State Birding Trail offers.”

New York State’s wide-ranging habitat types, from the Atlantic Ocean’s sandy beaches to majestic Catskill and Adirondack peaks, Great Lakes shorelines, and everything in between create a birder’s paradise that supports more than 450 different bird species throughout the year. New York offers a wide variety of options in Birding Trail locations with ongoing new sites being added, making it even easier for New Yorkers to get started with this fun activity.

The annual I BIRD NY Beginner’s Birding Challenge is open to anyone 16 years of age and younger. To complete the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, participants must identify 10 common New York bird species and submit their challenge sheet to DEC.

In addition to the Beginner’s Birding Challenge, DEC is offering the I Bird NY experienced birder challenge. To complete birders of any age must identify at least 10 different bird species found across New York State.

Entries can be submitted online or be mailed or emailed and must be received by October 14. Both entry forms are also available in Spanish. All participants in both challenges will be able to print a certificate of participation and be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win birding accessories, including binoculars and a grand prize spotting scope. All participants will also receive an extra entry for identifying half of the birds on NYS Birding Trail sites. As a bonus, the first 50 participants from either challenge will receive a special goodie bag of birding swag items.

The I BIRD NY program was launched in 2017 to build on the State’s efforts to increase access to New York’s vast natural resources and promote no- and low-cost opportunities to explore the great outdoors and connect with nature.

World Canals Conference will be in NY in 2025 on 200th anniversary of Erie Canal

Posted 6 June 2022 at 8:03 am

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Kimberly Stawicki took this photo of the sunset last week on the south side of the canal in Medina near Fruit Avenue.

BUFFALO – Governor Kathy Hochul announced that New York State has been selected by Inland Waterways International as the host of the 2025 World Canals Conference, an event that brings together hundreds of canal and inland waterway enthusiasts, professionals and scholars from around the world to learn about a variety of topics related to canals.

The 2025 conference will be held in Buffalo as the State commemorates the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal’s opening there in 1825. The New York Power Authority, New York State Canal Corporation, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, in partnership with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and Visit Buffalo Niagara, are the joint sponsors and will be coordinating all aspects of the conference.

“I am honored that New York State, and particularly the City of Buffalo, will host the 2025 World Canals Conference, providing us with the opportunity to host attendees from around the globe while highlighting a critical part of our state and nation’s history during the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal’s opening,” Governor Hochul said. “The Erie Canal has been an integral part of New York’s economy and landscape since Governor Dewitt Clinton began the 10-day inaugural voyage in Buffalo in 1825 on the newly completed canal, culminating in the famous ‘Wedding of the Waters’ ceremony in New York Harbor.”

The World Canals Conference is a key component of a comprehensive, four-month celebration of the Erie Canal’s bicentennial planned at the historic Buffalo waterfront between May and September of 2025. The event will highlight Buffalo’s transformed waterfront Canalside district, which has recently seen more than $400 million in new investment including new hotels, a major sports arena, a children’s museum, retail shops and a fabulous, re-created waterway on the footprint of the original Erie Canal in the Queen City. Today, Buffalo’s Canalside attracts more than 1,000,000 persons annually.

The conference program will be vibrant, relevant and undeniably future focused as canals and inland waterways are inexorably linked with the social, cultural and economic fiber of their surrounding communities.

Accordingly, the event will be structured to embrace discussion of the innovations, opportunities and challenges which are driving healthy and sustainable waterways of the world today. Sessions on waterways and communities, tourism and recreation, waterway management, historic preservation, and inclusion and accessibility will comprise a diverse and compelling conference agenda. International attendees will mark the indelible impact the Erie Canal has brought to North America and beyond and will be able to chart the course for a vibrant and promising future to be shared by inland waterways across the globe.

New York Power Authority Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, Our New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation family is incredibly proud to join Governor Hochul and our partners as we celebrate the bicentennial of New York State’s iconic Erie Canal on a world stage. This international event will not only showcase our still working Canal system but will also promote its continued positive impact on local economies and highlight the endless opportunities for adventure along our network of water and trailways.”

The upcoming conference in Buffalo will mark the fourth time in recent years that New York State has hosted this international event. It was previously held in Rochester in 2000 and 2010, and again in Syracuse in 2017 which marked the 200 years since the start of construction of the Erie Canal in 1817. Specific details regarding the 2025 World Canals Conference will be announced as conference planning gets underway.

Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “For nearly two centuries, the Erie Canal has connected people and commerce across our state, and as the stewards of this iconic waterway, I am thrilled to celebrate its bicentennial alongside Governor Hochul and our colleagues as we bring the international focus of the World Canals Conference back to New York State. This global gathering of inland waterway leaders and canal enthusiasts allows us to truly showcase how our continued investments in the Canal system support recreation and local businesses in canalside communities across upstate New York.”

Registration opens for free kayak, hydro-bike excursions on canal in Medina

File photo by Tom Rivers: Brian Stratton, state canal director, is on the hydro-bike and Greg Reed, Orleans County YMCA director, is in the kayak in this photo on June 15, 2021 at Medina’s Canal Basin.

Posted 31 May 2022 at 1:08 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the launch of a new season of free “On the Canals” excursions along the New York State Canal system.

Now in its third year, this free recreational program, sponsored by the New York Power Authority and New York State Canal Corporation, offers unique opportunities to experience the waterways of the Canal system and the adjoining Empire State Trail. This summer’s “On the Canals” excursions include kayaking, cycling, cruising, painting, birding, and accessible activities such as adaptive paddling and biking.

“I am thrilled this free program is returning for a third season and can think of no better way to spend the summer than ‘On the Canals,’ as these recreational activities bring New Yorkers and tourists alike to our waterways and trails and help support our local economies,” Governor Hochul stated in a press release. “As a frequent boater on the Canal and having kayaked and cycled during the first two seasons of ‘On the Canals,’ I know firsthand how spectacular these recreational opportunities are. I look forward to this new season offering unique experiences that allow for families and individuals of all abilities to enjoy our historic Canal system.”

This season’s “On the Canals” program builds upon the successful first two seasons by expanding the types of activities offered, increasing participation by offering more outings over a longer period, and growing the number of locations across the Canal system where excursions are held. “On the Canals” will also be on hand at various festivals this year, with adaptive equipment available to try out. Itineraries this season include:

  • Paddle/Pedal in Brockport with adaptive equipment available
  • Bike Safety Rodeo and Repair Workshops in Buffalo
  • Black Rock Historic Bike Tour in Buffalo
  • Hydrobike & Kayak the Canal Aqueduct in Medina
  • Fish & Kayak at Medina Falls & Glenwood Lake in Medina
  • Kids Paddlesports on the Canal in Oswego
  • Introduction to Kayaking & Stand-Up Paddleboarding in Oswego
  • Sunset Paddling and Urban Paddle in Oswego
  • Montezuma Wetlands: In Search of the Bald Eagle in Montezuma
  • Painting Alongside the Canal (En Plein Air) in Amsterdam and other canalside locations
  • STEAM Workshops for Kids & Teens in Schuylerville and Utica
  • Bike & Boat Cruises in Schuylerville
  • Cycling Tours in Schuylerville and surrounding areas
  • Guided Kayak Tours in Buffalo, North Tonawanda, Waterloo and Macedon
  • Historic Boat Tours in Schuylerville, Herkimer, Buffalo and on Seneca Lake
  • Youth Kayak & Water Safety in Macedon
  • Intro to Cycling & Bike Maintenance in Schuylerville
  • Paddle/Pedal in Halfmoon

Editor’s Note: The Orleans County YMCA is running the kayaking and hydro bike programs for the canal. For more information on registering for excursions in Medina, click here for information about the Canal Basin excursions and click here for the excursions from Glenwood Lake to the Medina Waterfalls . For the other outings on the canal, click here for more information.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “I am incredibly proud to join Governor Hochul and our colleagues at the New York Power Authority as we officially launch this year’s ‘On the Canals’ summer excursions with new offerings that make this program more accessible than ever. Our Canal system is a fundamental part of our state’s history and should be enjoyed to its fullest capacity by all New Yorkers and visitors who come looking for education, adventure, and fun, and I encourage everyone of all ages and skill levels to spend their summer experiencing New York’s most iconic waterways and trails ‘On the Canals.’”

Initially piloted in the summer of 2020 as “NY Canal Staycations,” the “On the Canals” program has expanded as a year-round recreation initiative in New York State after participation nearly tripled in 2021.

“On the Canals” is funded through the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation’s Reimagine the Canals initiative – a $300 million effort to revitalize the Canal system as a tourism and recreation destination while simultaneously boosting economic development and improving the resiliency of canalside communities.

The New York State Canal system, which provides unique and unparalleled experiences, officially opened this year for its 198th consecutive season of navigation in May.

Erie Canal opens Friday for 198th navigation season

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Big Apple in Medina, just west of the Glenwood Avenue canal bridge, is shown on Tuesday while nearby trees are in bloom. The apple sculpture was created by local artist Richard Bannister.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 May 2022 at 11:45 am

The Erie Canal will open Friday to boaters for the 198th navigation season.

The entire system is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. The standard hours of operation are 7 to 5 p.m. daily until the season closes on Oct. 12.

However, the lift bridges from Spencerport through Orleans County to Gasport will be operational from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. through the peak navigation season from May 20 through Sept. 14. There are seven lift bridges in Orleans County – Holley, Hulberton, Ingersoll Street in Albion, Main Street in Albion, Eagle Harbor, Knowlesville and Medina. There are 16 lift bridges on the canal and the seven in Orleans are more than any other county in the state.

For the sixth straight year, the Canal Corp. is waiving the recreational boating fees. Those tolls were normally $25 to $100 for a season pass, depending on the size of the vessel.

It’s a colorful sight along the canal right now during the spring bloom.

Canal bank inspections start this week in Orleans, Niagara

Posted 28 March 2022 at 12:20 pm

Work includes survey, geophysical investigation and soil borings

Press Release, NYS Canal Corp.

The New York State Canal Corporation announced that routine inspections of water retaining embankments along the Erie Canal in Niagara and Orleans Counties will begin this week.

These inspections, which provide information on the embankment composition, will be completed by Canal Corporation contractors, and are necessary to ensure the embankments are functioning as designed. If deficiencies are discovered during the inspections, repairs will be appropriately scheduled.

The contractors will complete surveying, geophysical investigations, and soil borings at the following locations:

  • Between Eagle Harbor Road and Gaines Basin Road (Town of Albion)
  • Between Wruck Road and Peet Street (Middleport)
  • From Halls Waste Weir Dam to Lake Avenue (City of Lockport)

This routine work is not associated with the Canal Corporation’s proposed Earthen Embankment Integrity Program.

While this routine inspection work is performed, residents may notice crew members, wearing hard hats and high-visibility vests, as well as their geophysical and drilling equipment called “rigs” in the vicinity of the locations noted above.

During the inspections, access to the Erie Canalway Trail may be disrupted for brief periods of time. Any trail detours will be posted on signs and shared with municipalities in advance.

It is anticipated that this inspection process will be completed by June 30.

The Canal Corporation appreciates the public’s patience while this work is completed.

DEC, Canal Corp. target spread of round goby

Posted 25 March 2022 at 9:13 am

Photo from DEC of round goby which range in size from 4 to 10 inches.

Press Release, DEC and Canal Corp.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York State Canal Corporation have announced a new comprehensive effort, including a new rapid response plan, to combat the potential spread of the round goby, an aquatic invasive species, to the Lake Champlain Basin following the discovery of the fish in the Hudson River near Troy in July 2021. Aquatic invasive species can out-compete native fish species, disrupting ecosystems and damaging local economies dependent on recreation.

Aquatic invasive species are non-native aquatic plants and animals that can negatively impact the environment, local economies, and even human health. These harmful species have been found in many of New York’s lakes, ponds, and rivers, and can be transported from waterbody to waterbody on watercraft, equipment, and bait. Research shows that recreational watercraft are the greatest vector for transport and introduction of these invasive species throughout the United States.

“DEC is working shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners at Canal Corporation to address the threat of round goby and other invasive species to waterbodies like Lake Champlain,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “We are bolstering current invasive species surveillance education and taking a hard look at the immediate threats posed by these water-borne invaders to implement the most effective strategies that will protect our fisheries, wildlife, and local recreational economies today and into the future.”

The round goby is one of the biggest threats to New York waters, particularly Lake Champlain, and DEC lists round goby as a prohibited invasive species in the New York Code of Rules and Regulations. Native to Europe and Asia, this fish was introduced in the Great Lakes in 1990, and spread throughout the lakes’ system. Round goby reproduces quickly, outcompetes native benthic fish species for food and habitat, eats the young and eggs of other fish, and can transport botulism up the food chain to waterfowl.

“The Canal Corporation is proactively partnering with DEC to ensure the Canal system helps implement any necessary steps, including education and awareness programming, to combat against invasive fish, like the round goby, and other aquatic invasive species, while at the same time ensuring the Canal remains a driver of economic activity and a thriving tourist destination,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “As we implement risk reduction strategies along on the Champlain Canal this season, we ask users and stakeholders for their patience and encourage them to learn how they can assist in mitigating the spread of aquatic invasive species to ensure the Canal’s resiliency for generations to come.”

DEC and Canals will conduct a full evaluation of the potential ecological and economic impacts of aquatic invasive species, including the round goby, to the public, canal users, municipalities, and New York State. Working with partners, the agencies will develop a rapid response plan to take effect before the opening of the Canal system on May 20 to identify appropriate actions if round goby enter the Champlain Canal. These measures and metrics will be driven by research tracking the spread of aquatic invasive species.

In addition to the rapid response plan, the agencies are working collaboratively with partners, like the Lake Champlain Basin Program and others, to the associated economic impacts, implement new risk reduction strategies and potential mitigation measures in select locks on the Champlain Canal, and provide enhanced public education so all New Yorkers can help prevent the spread of invasives. Prior to advancing any actions, DEC and the Canal Corporation will work with partners to educate and engage stakeholders on any measures identified to limit the spread of round goby.

Gillibrand, Schumer push to reauthorize, increase funding for Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor

Posted 22 March 2022 at 10:45 am

Press Release, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand

Photo by Tom Rivers: Fireworks are reflected in the Erie Canal in Holley during the June Fest celebration on June 2, 2018.

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are announcing the introduction of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act, legislation that would extend the canalway’s authorization as a National Heritage Area (NHA) for the next 15 years, through FY 2037.

Currently, Congress reauthorizes NHAs in two-year periods; this 15-year extension would be a long-term solution to preserve one of New York’s most critical economic engines. In addition to extending the reauthorization period for the Erie Canalway Corridor as a National Heritage Area, this bill would raise the funding cap for the Erie Canalway from $16 million to $18 million.

The Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor consists of the 57 canalway locks, spanning 524 miles and connecting Lake Erie to the Hudson River. It was designated a National Heritage Area by Congress in 2000, granting the waterway a federally appointed Canalway Commission tasked with ensuring that the historical and natural features of the Canal and its communities are preserved.

The corridor spans upstate New York from Buffalo to Albany and along the Champlain Canal to Whitehall. Each year hundreds of thousands of visitors boat, bike, and walk along the corridor, supporting tourism, businesses, and job creation across the state. Gillibrand and Schumer successfully fought for reauthorization of the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor’s funding in 2009.

“It is time to open the gates and let long-term federal support flow into the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor so that Upstate New York’s economy can rise. The Erie Canal is a vital economic engine for tourism in Upstate New York, not to mention one of the Empire State’s greatest attractions and most impressive features. This legislation will ensure the legacy of the Erie Canal’s beauty remains intact and continues to inspire the next generation,” said Senator Schumer. “The history of the Erie Canal is not just the history of New York, but of America and the rise of our great nation. A rising tide lifts all boats, and I am proud to be leading the charge in ensuring the Erie Canal gets the funding it needs to continue to lift communities from Buffalo to Albany.”

“The Erie Canal is one of our nation’s richest treasures and spans across the great state of New York. The legacy of the canal helps drive millions of dollars and is a critical economic engine for Upstate New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “From Buffalo, through Wayne County and up to Lake Champlain, the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor has helped sustain strong communities with miles of adventure and endless recreation for the millions of New Yorkers who call the Corridor home. I’m proud to introduce this legislation to provide a long-term fix for the Erie Canalway’s reauthorization and funding cap. As a native of Upstate New York, I have always fought to preserve the canal’s natural resources and history and will continue serving as a champion in the Senate to conserve its beauty for generations to come.”

The senators have a long history of fighting for this important New York NHA. Congress has imposed cumulative funding caps on the amount of funding NHAs can receive over their lifetime, but also has the authority to increase the caps. In 2019, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressman Tonko successfully increased the funding cap for the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor to $14 million. The FY 2022 omnibus funding package included an increase for the Erie Canalway to $16 million; however, as Congress figures out a long-term reauthorization solution, the senators want to ensure the Corridor is adequately funded should it reach its funding cap during that time frame.

The FY 2022 omnibus also reauthorized the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission through FY 2037, so this bill would align the Corridor’s reauthorization time frame with the Commission’s. Senator Gillibrand previously introduced bicameral legislation with Congressman Tonko to extend the Commission’s reauthorization.

“Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, along with Congressman Tonko, have long recognized the value of investing in canal communities’ heritage and recreational opportunities as important economic drivers for upstate New York,” said Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Bob Radliff. “With their critical support, Erie Canalway will continue to preserve, foster and showcase this legendary place for millions of Corridor residents and visitors from all over the world.”

Ravens return to build new nest at County Courthouse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 February 2022 at 1:08 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – A nest built by ravens is tucked into a crevice on the Orleans County Courthouse in Albion. The nest faces north at East State Street, above the front columns of the building.

This is the second year ravens have built a nest at the courthouse. Last year the nest was on the east side of the building.

The ravens collected good-size branches to make the nest in the courthouse. Last year several baby birds hatched from the nest in late April.

This raven is shown around noon today. The bird is perched high on the First Presbyterian Church and was making a lot of noise aimed at another raven which was in the nest.

New grant program will boost tourism initiatives along Erie Canal

Posted 2 February 2022 at 11:23 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: These cyclists were among 350 who rode the Erie Canal towpath last July. They are shown in Albion in between the two lift bridges.

Press Release, Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor

WATERFORD – The New York State Canal Corporation, through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor are launching a new competitive grant program to support tourism and recreation along the New York State Canal System, including canal waterways and Canalway Trail.

The 2022 program will provide funding to support tourism infrastructure and amenity improvements, and events.

Funding is open to counties, municipalities, units of local government, not-for-profit organizations and federally recognized Native American tribes.

“The Canal Corporation is proud to fund and partner with the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor in launching this new grant program that aims to grow unique recreation and tourism experiences along New York’s iconic Canal system,” said Brian Stratton, Director of the New York State Canal Corporation. “This funding will continue to make opportunities along the canals more exciting and accessible for visitors and we look forward to providing this support in an effort to improve experiences while promoting the connectivity between our historic waterways, trails, and canalside communities.”

The grant program includes two funding categories:

• Event Support, with an award range of $500 to $15,000, and

• Tourism Infrastructure & Amenity Support, with an award range of $5,000 to $24,000.

Applicants may apply for one or both categories.

Projects submitted should demonstrate how they will achieve one or more program objectives:

• facilitate recreation and/or tourism

• enhance visitor amenities

• encourage overnight stays

• improve the visitor experience

• make recreational and tourism assets more accessible

• attract and serve diverse audiences

• improve connectivity between recreation areas and communities or between waterways and land trails.

“We look forward to bringing many innovative ideas and exciting events to life through these grants. Combining federal, state, and local resources in support of community-based projects and events will benefit residents and visitors to New York’s iconic canals,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Potential applicants will find details by clicking here.

Applications open on Feb. 22 and are due on April 1. A virtual Q&A will be held on March 3 at 10 a.m.; registration details will be posted on the website.

Classes will help ‘Master Your Garden’ – honeybees, vermicomposting among the topics

Posted 21 January 2022 at 3:44 pm

Provided photos: Geri Hens, a Master Beekeeper and environmental educator, will kick off the “Master Your Garden” series with a presentation on pollinators, focusing on native insects and other animals vital to the local ecosystem.

Press Release, Orleans County Master Gardeners

KNOWLESVILLE – Master Gardeners in Orleans County have finalized the lineup for their monthly “Master Your Garden” class series.

Like most organizations, Master Gardeners had to adapt and alter their typical event schedule the last two years due to the pandemic. Last year they launched their “Master Your Garden” series for the first time ever – a monthly class on the first Saturday of each month featuring various gardening topics and taught by Master Gardener volunteers or Extension staff.

Natural dyes are the focus of the April 2 class.

The series turned out to be a success as many public participants were looking for in-person learning opportunities to support existing garden hobbies or explore new gardening niches.   Master Gardeners decided to return to this style of programming for the 2022 event year and have developed a robust lineup of new topics.

“I really like this new format of offering classes for the public,” said Master Gardener Brenda Radzinski who taught a class on Roses in last year’s MYG lineup and will lead “Natural Easter Egg Dyes” in April this year. “I think the Master Your Gardener series is a more diverse style of educational outreach. It gives us the opportunity to offer a wider range of topics to those interested.”

The first class of the 2022 series will be on “Pollinators” on Feb. 5 at 10 a.m. in the Trolley Building at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds. The class will feature honeybees and their native counterparts, as well as other pollinators that are vital to the life cycle of most flowering plants.

Master Gardener Chairperson Erica Joan Wanecski will open the program with an introductory presentation on “Mutualism – Partnerships in Nature,” discussing how different animals, insects and plants have evolved together in mutually beneficial relationships.

The headline presentation on “Pollinators” will be taught by Geri Hens, a Master Beekeeper, tenured environmental educator, and owner of Hens Honeybee Farm in Niagara County.

Master Gardener Jena Buckwell will lead two presentations in this year’s MYG lineup – Meet Your Mulch, and IPM for Snails and Slugs.

Initially approached to do a presentation specifically on Honeybees, Hens wanted to make sure the native pollinators that often go unnoticed received their share of attention and appreciation. Her presentation will be an in-depth conversation about the roles of insects and their habitats, the threats facing our local ecosystems, and things homeowners can do to mitigate those threats.

Hens brings decades of experience working with pollinators of all kinds, and she is backed not only by her formal credentialed training in beekeeping and environmental education but also her personal reflections from over thirty years of observing the ever-changing environment and its impacts.

The rest of the class series will feature topics such as vermicomposting (composting with worms), selecting the best mulch for your garden, local watershed protection, native plants and more!

For the full class schedule, see the Orleans County CCE website.  All classes are donation-based, community members can pay what they are able, with proceeds going to support other educational projects put together by the Master Gardeners like the returning Seed Bank project, a new Vegetable Variety Trial Garden, and tabling materials at local events.

“Our Master Gardener Volunteers are such an experienced bunch of gardeners with really varied areas of interest,” said Katie Oakes, coordinator of the Master Gardener program and Horticulture Educator at Orleans County CCE.  “They aren’t afraid to try new things, and when they have successes are so willing to share their knowledge with the public.  This MYG class series is the perfect outlet to extend those skills and experiences to our community members.”

For more information on this or any other Master Gardener event, contact Katie Oakes, at 585-798-4265 ext. 125 or by email at

Canal Corp. lights up Fairport lift bridge as part of new initiative

Photo by Philip Kamrass, New York Power Authority: The lift bridge in Fairport has been illumined as part of the state’s “Reimagine the Canals Initiative.” None of the canal bridges in Orleans County are currently planned to be lighted in a similar way.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 December 2021 at 12:13 pm

FAIRPORT – One of the state’s iconic lift bridges has been illumined as part of the “Reimagine the Canals” Initiative to boost tourism and draw attention to the historic waterway.

The LED lights were turned on the Fairport lift bridge on Tuesday. The State Canal Corp. also illumined two Oneida Lake lighthouses – one in Brewerton in Oswego County and another at Verona Beach in Oneida County.

The Canal Corp. doesn’t currently have plans to light up a bridge in Orleans County, which is home to seven of the 16 lift bridges. The next structure to be illumined will be on the eastern end of the Erie Canal in Herkimer County and should debut in the late spring/summer, said Shane Mahar, Canal Corp. spokesman.

“These key pieces of infrastructure helped us to build the New York we have today, and the new lighting features welcome New Yorkers and visitors alike to pause and recognize their crucial influence on our state’s history – and future,” said Brian Stratton, Canal Corp. director. “The illumination of these iconic structures enhances the communities along the canal and literally shines light onto our canal infrastructure for all to enjoy.”

The canal is nearly 200 years old. It opened in 1825. The state has looked for ways to better utilize the waterway, and that has included more irrigation for agriculture and supplementing tributaries with water until mid-December to boost fishing.

Opening day of the 198th consecutive season of navigation on the canal system is scheduled for May 20, 2022.

Christmas Bird Count will be Dec. 28 at Oak Orchard Swamp

Photos courtesy of Celeste Morien: A Tufted Titmouse was spotted at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

Posted 7 December 2021 at 4:08 pm

Press Release, Celeste Morien, count compiler for Oak Orchard Swamp Christmas Bird Count

SHELBY – It’s close to that time again for the Oak Orchard Swamp Christmas Bird Count.

The count began in December 1968. The National Audubon Society has been sponsoring Christmas Bird Counts for 121 years and the Friends of Iroquois NWR, Inc. provide support for this local count.

Count compiler and Medina resident Celeste Morien would like the public to be alert for counters with spotting scopes and binoculars who will be out and about Dec. 28 on local roads, searching for birds in fields and at bird feeders.

Filling bird feeders now and keeping them stocked ahead of the count helps fulfill the count objective of counting all wild birds seen and heard within the circle! Our Oak Orchard Swamp count is centered at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge on the Orleans and Genesee County line at Route 63. Count volunteers follow specified routes through a designated 15-mile diameter circle, which includes more than the refuge and state wildlife areas, counting every bird they see or hear all day. It’s not just a species tally—all birds are counted all day, giving an indication of the total number of birds in the circle that day.

According to the Audubon website, “Prior to the turn of the 20th century, hunters engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” They would choose sides and go afield with their guns—whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the then-nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition—a “Christmas Bird Census” that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of 27 dedicated birders, 25 Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America.

From Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 each year tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas brave snow, wind, or rain, and take part in the effort. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this long-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide conservation action.

The data collected by observers over the past century allow Audubon researchers, conservation biologists, wildlife agencies and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

The long term perspective is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well.

If your home is within the circle and you are at home on count day, you can report the birds that visit your feeders. To do so, please contact

Please consider donating to the Christmas Count here since the Audubon Society no longer collects fees from each participant. Click here for more information.

For past results of any Christmas Bird Count, the National Audubon Society website is an excellent resource. Click here for more information.

A Song Sparrow blends in with the surroundings at the wildlife refuge. Last year there were 20,843 birds counted in 73 species.

NY to offer payments to secure more public access for fishing along nearby tributaries

Posted 4 December 2021 at 12:44 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

File photo by Tom Rivers: This angler tries to catch a big salmon in the Oak Orchard River.

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new pilot program to improve public access along Western New York’s Lake Ontario tributaries receiving water from the Erie Canal in Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara counties.

Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Canal Corporation, and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), have entered into a partnership to implement the “Access and Conservation Easement” program has been created to provide one-time payments to waterfront property owners to secure public fishing access and other conservation rights.

The eligible properties are along north flowing Lake Ontario tributaries which are currently and proposed to become part of the Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing Program.

“Fishing during the fall season is a cornerstone of recreation in Western New York, and I am delighted to announce the expansion of our efforts to maintain optimal conditions and improve opportunities for anglers,” said Governor Kathy Hochul. “Through the Reimagine the Canals initiative, this partnership between the state and local landowners in key fishing areas will connect community and conservation along the Lake Ontario tributaries and will provide New Yorkers with additional areas to cast a line while increasing tourism and bolstering local businesses.”

A Request for Expressions of Interest is being developed and will be issued to allow landowners in the designated areas to provide property and contact information to be considered for inclusion in the Program.

The ACE program will be piloted on several waterfront properties in Monroe, Orleans and Niagara counties selected through the RFEI and will follow a transparent process by which an easement price will be determined, with an option for landowners to opt-out at any point prior to reaching an agreement.

The easements will provide public fishing access and convey to the rights to maintain easement areas to improve water quality, enhance habitat, and reduce erosion. Easements or rights-of-way will reside with DEC ensuring public access and water quality improvements into the future.

NYPA Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “As part of our Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing Program, we are proud to create the ACE program in partnership with our colleagues at DEC. Conservation efforts are crucial for our State’s environmental protection, and we look forward to the numerous benefits this program will provide communities and anglers who take advantage of New York’s world-class fishing destinations.”

This map from the State Canal Corp. shows where the state uses canal water to supplement local tributaries and boost fishing opportunities for the fall salmon runs.

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, “For two seasons now the Canal Corporation has been increasing regulated water releases from the storied Erie Canal to improve spawning conditions and enhance angling opportunities in Western New York. These efforts are another example of how our Canal system connects our past with the present and the ACE program is a perfect complement to our Fall Fishing Program by providing anglers more and better access.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Segos said, “Developed with our partners at the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation, the Reimagine the Canals Access and Conservation Easement program is a creative approach to enhancing public access to quality fishing experiences in Western New York, drawing anglers from across the state to experience the region’s world-class angling opportunities while protecting water quality and the environment at each site. DEC is pleased to collaborate on the Reimagine the Canals Fall Fishing initiative, which is bolstering fall fishing opportunities and local economies across Western New York.”

Based on an analysis of current and future public access needs, NYPA estimates investing up to $1.25 million over ten years into the ACE program. This program will expand New York’s Fall Fishing Program, which releases water, when appropriate, over an extended period to increase the flows in Lake Ontario tributaries throughout the fall and extends the draining of the Erie Canal to create optimal fishing opportunities and a longer season for anglers.

For more information on New York State’s Fall Fishing Program, visit the Canal Corporation’s website.

Virtual workshop offers insights to protect shoreline along Lake Ontario

Posted 29 November 2021 at 3:10 pm

Press Release, New York Sea Grant

Water, wind, waves, and time, even the gentle lapping of Lake Erie or Lake Ontario, erodes the Great Lakes shoreline.

To mitigate the impact of shoreline erosion, New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Great Lakes Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist Roy L. Widrig is inviting waterfront property owners to participate in online workshops on Dec. 7 and Dec. 9.

The 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. workshop on Dec. 7 will focus on the Western Lake Ontario shoreline areas of Niagara and Orleans counties.

The action and impact of Lake Erie on properties in Erie and Chautauqua counties will be featured in the Dec. 9 workshop from 1 pm to 4 pm. To register for either or both workshops, click here or contact 315-312-3042 or for assistance.

“The processes of erosion and accretion along Lakes Erie and Ontario share some similarities, but vast differences in the physical makeup of their shorelines, and the differences in approaching management options must be considered when planning a project,” says Widrig, author of the “Erosion Management for New York’s Great Lakes Shorelines Guide.”

In each workshop, Widrig will cover ways to address such issues as planning for lake level variations, designing and maintaining seawalls or rock rip-rap, water pooling in yards or basements, and general coastal processes. Participants will learn how they can freely access his expertise through the New York Sea Grant “Virtual Shoreline Visit” tool.

Locally-based New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of State and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers personnel will discuss the permitting process for shoreline projects and answer questions as part of each workshop.

Workshop participants will see before and after photos of properties where options to achieve better drainage, bluff stabilization, and use nature-based features or traditional structures have been applied to manage erosion. Widrig will also share tips as the author of “Working with Nature: A Guide to Native Plants for New York’s Great Lakes Shorelines.”

New York Sea Grant, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021-2022. It maintains Great Lakes offices in Oswego, Newark and Buffalo. For more information on Great Lakes coastal processes and erosion, click here.