Preservation League tries to rally support for historic canal vessels

Posted 31 July 2018 at 4:31 pm

Press Release, Preservation League of New York State

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo from October 2015 shows the Tug Urger when it was in Albion.

ALBANY – The Preservation League of New York State is seeking support for its efforts to protect the historic Tug Urger and other Erie Canal vessels that provide an authentic link to the past.

The League recently learned that the New York State Canal Corporation, under the New York Power Authority (NYPA), has plans to beach the tugboat Urger, flagship of the Erie Canal and beloved “teaching tug.” This vessel has introduced thousands of school children and members of the public to New York’s navigable waterways, reinforcing the role of the Erie Canal in making New York the Empire State.

Tug Urger used to travel up and down the canal system for school field trips and public events. Now the Canal Corporation and NYPA want to pull it from the water and make it a dry-land exhibit at a NYS Visitor Center off the Thruway in Montgomery County. NYPA’s plans would permanently disable the Urger and prevent it from returning to service.

The League is launching an advocacy campaign to call attention to the plight of the Urger and to call on the Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority to work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the fleet of historic canal vessels, more than a dozen of which are slated to be scuttled off Long Island to create artificial reefs for sport fishing and recreational diving.

According to Jay DiLorenzo, president of the Preservation League, “The Erie Canal is an engine for recreation and tourism with significant economic benefits for canal communities, businesses, and New York State. The Preservation League has been working for years to help communities in the Erie Canal Corridor address their unique preservation challenges and revitalize canalside assets.”

Through more than $600,000 in grants, technical services, workshops, awards and the Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, the Preservation League has helped individuals, not-for-profits and municipalities throughout the canal corridor. Loans from the Endangered Properties Intervention Program (EPIP) have added more than $300,000 in support.

“As we mark the 100th anniversary of the Barge Canal, it seems like a remarkably poor time to remove historic resources from the National Historic Landmark NYS Canal System,” continued DiLorenzo.

“It’s hard to imagine the future of the canal system without Tug Urger and other significant historic vessels on the water,” said Bob Radliff, Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. “These vessels convey the sense of New York State pride, stewardship, and heritage that are integral to a thriving, living waterway.”

According to Dan Wiles, president of the Board of Directors of the Canal Society of New York State, “The 1901 Urger already had a storied career even before plying Barge Canal waters in the 1920s, serving as a fishing boat on Lake Michigan. As one of the State’s maintenance workhorses, its presence overlaps nearly all of the years of the Barge Canal, now celebrating its centennial. It has been appreciated by generations across these many years and across New York State. It is one of the essential links between that past and the future. We all need it to continue this mission on the waterway, being shared by communities throughout the canal corridor.”

In addition to the effort to save the Urger, the League is also calling on the Canal Corporation and New York Power Authority to work with stakeholders to develop a plan for the remainder of the fleet of historic canal vessels, which currently numbers 57.

More information and a petition is on the Preservation League’s website at

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