ERIE CANALWAY TRAIL – A CAMPAIGN TO CLOSE THE GAPS!

Extending 524 miles across New York, the Canalway Trail system brings economic, public health, tourism, and quality of life benefits to the more than one million New Yorkers living in upstate canal communities.  The most popular leg of the system, the Erie Canalway Trail, is growing in popularity and is on its way to becoming a premier tourist destination for cyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts.  

In 2002, the State committed $35 million for completion of the 365-mile Erie Canalway Trail and pledged to finish it by 2010.  Recently, citing declining toll revenues, inflation and the state of the economy, the New York State Thruway Authority has deferred construction of the remaining unfinished sections of trail within the Canalway Trail system.  There is now no target completion date or timetable for when work might resume.  Without an announced new timetable for completion and with Thruway Authority revenues continuing to decline, the question is how to ensure the remaining trail gap segments will be finished, available for public use, and ready to generate maximum tourism dollars for New York State.

PARKS & TRAILS NEW YORK PLAN OF ACTION

Since 1998, Parks & Trails New York has been working in conjunction with the NYS Canal Corporation to help plan, design, construct, and promote the Canalway Trail System.  The Canalway Trail cannot attain its full potential as a world-class recreationway until it is finished.  The payback for this investment will be enormous as inns, B&Bs, restaurants, and bike shops open and Upstate New York communities experience a rebirth.

Parks & Trails New York recognizes and appreciates the current fiscal challenges and pledges to work with the Thruway Authority, the Canal Corporation, our federal and state legislators, and stakeholders throughout the corridor to look for creative approaches to ensure that the Canalway Trail is completed.  

State of the Trail Report

In 2010, Parks & Trails New York, in collaboration with the Canalway Trails Association New York(CTANY)  released Closing the Gaps: A Progress Report on the Erie Canalway Trail,which summarizes the status of efforts to complete the longest multi-use trail in the country, including recent progress and current obstacles to closing the remaining gaps. The 2010 report is the first of what will become an annual update on progress and remaining gaps that PTNY and CTANY hope will help focus attention on the importance of finishing the trail.

Close the Gaps Campaign gains momentum across the state
The campaign to “Close the Gaps” in the Erie Canalway Trail continues to gain momentum through the efforts of the office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in collaboration with Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation.  

Canajoharie Roundtable kicks off series of meeting around the state
In September 2010, the office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand brought together more than 50 local, county and state leaders from government and the nonprofit and business sectors in Canajoharie to discuss ways to complete the Erie Canalway Trail between Albany and Utica. During a discussion of next steps, the group affirmed the importance of completing the trail to the economy of the region and agreed to work together in small groups to find solutions to some of the most challenging sections. Schenectady County even announced it has made completing the trail its top economic development priority. Read the meeting notes.

Grassroots efforts stressed to close Clyde to Port Byron gap
Almost 40 persons filled the Clyde Fire Hall for the fifth in a series of Erie Canalway Trail Close the Gaps roundtables sponsored by the Office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in partnership with the New York State Canal Corporation, Parks & Trails New York, and the Western Erie Canal Alliance (WECA).  The roundtable was designed to gather input on how to complete the 24 miles of Erie Canalway Trail between the Wayne County Village of Clyde and the Cayuga County Village of Port Byron.  The group stressed the importance of utilizing grassroots efforts to accomplish smaller projects while still pursuing federal, state, and private grants for larger efforts.  WECA agreed to serve as convener for follow up meetings that will focus on short and long-term route options and funding sources that can help close the gap.  Read the meeting notes.

Planning to begin for City of Syracuse gap
County and state government officials, trail advocates, and nonprofit and business leaders came together at a March 2011 “Close the Gaps” roundtable held in Syracuse to explore options for a safe and well-marked 12-mile route for the Erie Canalway Trail between Camillus and Dewitt through the City of Syracuse.  Presently, cyclists must negotiate heavily travelled urban streets.

At the meeting, Danielle Krol of the Syracuse Metropolitan Transportation Council (SMTC) announced that this summer, as part of the SMTC 2011-2012 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), the SMTC will begin work on the Erie Canalway Trail, Syracuse Connector Route planning task.  This project will be completed by SMTC staff on behalf of the City of Syracuse, with input from SMTC member agencies, interested agencies, organizations and stakeholders, and the general public.  SMTC has allocated $30,000 toward this effort.

A part of the effort, various barriers to the trail’s implementation through the city will be identified along with solutions to these barriers and a documented plan for how to achieve implementation will be developed.  In the coming months, the SMTC will work with the City of Syracuse to develop a scope of work to guide this project.  Once the scope of work is finalized, a Study Advisory Committee (SAC) of SMTC member agencies and interested agencies and stakeholders will be formed to carry out the tasks outlined in the scope.  The resulting final plan will be approved through the SMTC’s Committee structure and forwarded to the City of Syracuse for implementation consideration.  The Erie Canalway Trail, Syracuse Connector Route project is anticipated to take 24 months to complete once the project’s scope of work is approved.  Read the meeting notes.

Funding key barrier for Lockport to Amherst gap
At a “Close the Gaps” roundtable held in Lockport in April, community members brainstormed options for addressing the six–mile gap between Amherst and Lockport, much of which is located in the Niagara County town of Pendleton.  As most of the necessary design work has been completed for this segment, the group focused its attention on ways to secure the $5 million needed for construction and whether there were interim solutions that could be undertaken until the off-road trail can be completed.  Read the meeting notes.

Creative ideas and strong commitment directed to Amsterdam to Rotterdam gap
The September Canajoharie “Close the Gaps” roundtable was the perfect catalyst to renew interest in the long-standing, seven-mile gap in the trail between Amsterdam in Montgomery County and Rotterdam Junction in Schenectady County.  A dedicated group, including town, county, and state agency officials, planners, engineers, Dylan Carey, aide to Congressman Tonko, and David Connors, aide to Senator Gillibrand, has been meeting every two months at the Rotterdam Town Hall to identify and propose solutions to the unique set of  issues associated with separate segments of this seven-mile gap.

One of the most exciting revelations to emerge from the meetings is that the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s recent purchase of most of this section of corridor can be used as a match for future federal transportation enhancement funding applications.  The group has also intensively examined the Norfolk Southern rail crossing at Rotterdam Junction and brainstormed possible opportunities for project donations.

Group calls for coordinated action to close gaps between Utica and Little Falls
Forty-five persons representing local businesses, tourism, and local governments met at Mohawk Valley Community College in May 2011 to examine the gaps between the Utica in Oneida County and Little Falls in Herkmer County.  The group concluded that they needed to better articulate their needs and coordinate their efforts as the first step in getting the attention and funding that the region must have in order to close two important gaps between Utica and German Flatts and German Flatts and Little Falls. Herkimer-Oneida Counties Transportation Study (HOCTS) offered to facilitate the initial follow up meeting.  Read the meeting notes.

 

 

           
 

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