Empire State Trail Towns

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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 will help canalside communities attract and support tourism and new business opportunities through trail-side investments, stewardship, promotion, and strong partnerships.

2022 Pilot Community: Brockport

Parks & Trails New York, in partnership with the New York State Canal Corporation, have selected the Village of Brockport as the pilot community for the Empire State Trail Town program in 2022.

As part of the program, PTNY staff will provide 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.

2022 Program Goals

PARTNERSHIPS

  • Establish a diverse, inclusive steering committee
  • Host 2-3 public listening sessions to engage residents and visitors
  • Identify volunteers to adopt a stretch of Erie Canalway Trail
  • Certify businesses as “Bike Friendly” and offer recommendations to improve online visibility through a “digital audit” assessment
  • Engage with regional and statewide officials and potential partners

RESEARCH & ASSESSMENT

  • Conduct Bikearound assessment in May to inform Action Plan
  • Execute a SWOT analysis during public listening sessions to inform Action Plan
  • Create and disseminate trail user survey & counts to gain additional information on who and for what purposes residents and visitors are using the Canalway Trail
  • Develop an Action Plan to integrate all research findings

PROMOTION & MARKETING

  • Host or participate in 2-3 events that can engage the community along the Erie Canalway Trail
  • Create and share Empire State Trail Town branding & logo on all website platforms by end of year
  • Develop new promotional resources and use existing platforms to enhance promotion efforts

FUNDING

  • Compile list of potential funding sources for identified projects as part of Action Plan
  • Coordinate efforts to support submission of up to 3 grant applications

Background

The Empire State Trail Town program is modeled after the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)’s Trail Town Program®, created in 2007. Demonstrating the mutually beneficial relationship between long-distance trails and neighboring communities has become a source of inspiration for Trail Town programs across the country. The Trail Town model helps communities realize long-term economic, health, and quality of life benefits from their proximity to the trail.

The GAP extends 150 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Downtown Pittsburgh. Along the way, trail users have access to various attractions, services, and amenities found within charming trailside communities. The GAP Conservancy, along with a group of dedicated trail owners and volunteer trail groups help maintain the GAP and promote tourism in trail towns. A 2021 economic impact analysis estimates that the GAP generates over $121 million in annual economic impact through tourism.

Developing the GAP, and recruiting trailside communities to share in its preservation and promotion has helped this resource thrive as a source of revenue for local economies and a safe place to recreate for visitors and residents.

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.