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Wednesday, June 3, 2015
By +Scott Leffler

To zip or not to zip? That is the question City of Lockport residents will have an opportunity to address during a public hearing on June 17.

The Lockport Common Council voted tonight to schedule the public hearing required prior to any vote the Council could take on the Erie Canal zip line proposed by the owners of the Lockport Caves and Underground Boat Rides.

The plan calls for two zip lines — one going from the north side of the canal south to a platform on the escarpment, and a second going from that platform back to the north side. The launch point would be on the Caves' property, while the south platform and second north platform would be on property owned by the New York State Canal Corp.

Lockport Caves and Underground Boat Rides Tom Callahan said they had originally hoped to be open for business in time for the sesquicentennial.

"I don't know if that's possible now," he said. "But we're working on it." A more likely outcome is an Aug. 1 opening, he said.

He called the zip line a one-of-a-kind attraction. "And it'll be the only ride in the 900 miles of Canal property in the entire state."

Callahan said his company has existing licenses and permits with the state and has been discussing with Thruway Authority officials how to amend those licenses and permits to allow for the zip line. The Thruway Authority oversees the Canal Corp.

Callahan said there remain hoops to jump through but he's confident he'll get the outcome he's hoping for in the timetable he's set out. First, he said, he needed local approval — including that of the Common Council.

"There's a lot of hoops to jump through. But before we started spending big money, we had to know we had some support," he said.

He has the support of at least two aldermen — Fourth-Ward Alerman Pat Schrader and Third-Ward Alderman Kitty Fogle. Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey has also publicly announced her support.

Second-Ward Alderwoman Anita Mullane said tonight that she's taking a wait-and-see approach.

"I've always encouraged the public to reach out to me and tell me their thoughts on things," she said. "I would like to hear from the residents in my ward (before deciding) because that's who I represent."

One concern that was brought up tonight at the Common Council meeting came from Shirley Nicholas, a Mill Street resident who is running for the First-Ward alderman seat. She was worried that the zip line would undermine the integrity of the historic district. 

Callahan said it would not. "We're not going to interfere with the historic nature of the flight ... or the historic district. Barely anybody will know that we're there."

He said the zip line has been three years in the making thus far but will be completed soon with the help of a consultant who's being brought in to help make it a reality.

"This guy is the best in the world at what he does," Callahan said.

Callahan didn't address specifics in terms of pricing for the attraction but said, "It's going to be affordable."


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