Empire State Trail Towns
Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation developed the Empire State Trail Town program to demonstrate the value of the Empire State Trail, the nation’s longest multi-use trail, as an economic driver for upstate communities. With the 750-mile trail’s completion in 2020, the Erie Canalway Trail— the east-west leg of the statewide system— is poised to serve as one of the state’s premier recreation destinations.
The Empire State Trail Town program began in 2022 with Brockport as a pilot community, and continues in 2023 with three additional communities. Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the NYS Canal Corporation, has selected the City of Lockport, Village of Newark and City of Rome as provisional Trail Towns for 2023. Having been selected for their commitment to high quality trail-based services and amenities and demonstrated commitment to policies geared towards trail users, the selected communities will work with PTNY to develop the tools to more effectively harness visitation to the renowned long-distance trail in their backyard.
Over the next 9 months, the provisional Trail Towns will work 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. Upon completion of the program, the selected communities will be recognized as certified Empire State Trail Towns.
Learn more about the 2022 Pilot Community: 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.
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
Known as the “Victorian Village on the Erie Canal,” Brockport was the first community along the Erie Canalway Trail to be officially designated an Empire State Trail Town. From its walkable Main Street lined with quaint shops to the Brockport Welcome Center right on the canal, the village is the perfect place to experience all that the Erie Canal and Canalway Trail have to offer.
- Genesee Valley Trail Town Initiative
- Great Allegheny Passage Trail Town Program
- Great Allegheny Passage Economic Impact Analysis
- Erie Canalway Trail Economic Impact Analysis
- Great Allegheny Passage Trail Town Handbook
The Empire State Trail Towns program is made possible thanks to support from the New York State Canal Corporation.