Empire State Trail Towns


Parks & Trails New York’s Empire State Trail Town Program recognizes and supports New York’s exceptional trailside communities. Communities demonstrate their singular commitment and willingness to leverage the full economic potential of the Empire State Trail through a competitive application process. This popular program, now entering its third year, is designed to guide communities and build their capacity through identifying methods to capitalize on their location on the longest single-state, multi-use trail in the nation–the Empire State Trail. The goals of the ten-month program are twofold: to increase opportunities for residents to access high-quality recreational opportunities and to create trail-friendly destinations where visitors want to stay, explore, and spend.

Throughout the year, PTNY assists selected communities while developing robust networks of local partners committed to success of the community and Trail Town initiative. Additional assistance is provided through public workshops to educate business owners, community leaders, and others about the needs of trail users, trail use research and assessment of current conditions, and promotion of the selected communities as must-visit destinations along the Empire State Trail. The year culminates with a final set of recommendations for each community to use as a road map to guide future Trail Town work.

In 2024, Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the New York State Canal Corporation, has welcomed four new communities into the program. Two of the communities are located along the Erie Canalway Trail and are already well-known for their trail hospitality: the City of Little Falls and the City of Amsterdam. For the first time ever, PTNY and the NYS Canal Corporation have expanded the scope of the program to include two communities along the Champlain Canalway Trail: the Village of Schuylerville and the Town of Fort Edward.

2023 Empire State Trail Towns: Lockport, Newark, and Rome

2023: Lockport, Newark & Rome

In 2023, Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the New York State Canal Corporation, welcomed three new communities into the program as provisional Trail Towns: the City of Lockport; Village of Newark; and City of Rome. Throughout the year, PTNY worked with Trail Town Steering Committees in each community to identify opportunities and develop tools to transform the communities into trail-friendly destinations. Special focus was placed on providing access to top-notch recreational opportunities for residents to enjoy and entice visitors to come back again and again to stay, explore, and spend

Over 9 months, the provisional Trail Towns worked with PTNY to develop a network of local partners committed to the Trail Town initiative, conduct research and assessment, develop promotional resources and strategies, and create and adopt an action agenda to guide future Trail Town work, following the steps laid out in the 2023 Trail Town Handbook. Once the selected communities adopt their action agendas, they will be recognized as certified Empire State Trail Towns.

Read the 2023 Trail Town Action Agendas:

2022 Empire State Trail Town: Brockport

2022: Brockport

In early 2022, Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the New York State Canal Corporation, selected the Village of Brockport as the pilot community for the Empire State Trail Town program. With a long history of bicycle and pedestrian advocacy, a vibrant main street just off the Erie Canalway Trail, the east-west leg of the Empire State Trail, and a welcome center for canal and trail users, the Village demonstrated many of the characteristics of a trail town from the start. Participating in the program offered Brockport an opportunity to reflect on how these assets could serve as a means to increase trail-related tourism and visitation, and what changes could be made to improve the bicyclist and pedestrian experience in the community and along the trail.

As part of the program, PTNY staff provided technical assistance and resources to help the Village attract and profit from the growing bicycle tourism market, improve the trail and infrastructure for those that walk and bike in the Village, and establish a strong community identity tied to the trail. The pilot program culminated with the release of an Action Plan to continue to guide Brockport's on-going work.

Empire State Trail Town Action Plan: Village of Brockport

PTNY worked closely with the Village through an intensive six-month process to evaluate existing conditions, strengthen community capacity, and develop recommendations so that Trail Town work could continue beyond 2022. Through a community survey, public listening session, and on-the-ground assessment, PTNY developed a set of eleven recommendations to guide Brockport's continued development as an Empire State Trail Town. Six of these identified improvements and modifications to physical infrastructure, and five sought to address promotion, programming, and policies in the Village. Some of the key recommendations for strengthening Brockport’s connection to the trail included:

  • Establishing a gateway at the Main Street trailhead,
  • Reimagining the canalfront and some of the vacant properties as a bike and pedestrian-friendly hub,
  • Developing a bicycle and pedestrian wayfinding plan for the trail and community,
  • Providing online resources to help trail users plan their visits,
  • Building up Brockport’s business community’s ties to the trail, and
  • Hosting more activities or events on the trail to continue building community around active recreation.

Additional Resources:

Appendix A: Empire State Trail Town Brockport Survey
Appendix B: Empire State Trail Town Brockport Funding Opportunities
Appendix C: Empire State Trail Town Brockport Digital Audit
Appendix D: Empire State Trail Town Brockport Trail Count Data

Visit an Empire State Trail Town

Additional Resources

NYS Canal Corporation Logo

The Empire State Trail Towns program is made possible thanks to support from the New York State Canal Corporation.