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Thursday, April 28, 2016
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, center, and Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey, right, took a short trip Tuesday by bike on the newly opened Erie Canalway Trail path through Lockport. (ENP PHOTOS BY HEATHER N. GRIMMER)


The Erie Canal opened for travel on Wednesday. A new stretch of bike path along the canal in Lockport and Pendleton officially opened a day earlier.

Officials cut the ribbon, officially opening the new four-mile stretch.
The 192nd season of navigation along New York's Canals April 27 opening is the earliest the waterway has opened in more than 30 years thanks to a mild winter which allowed staff to complete maintenance projects, and opening preparations, ahead of schedule. The Canal system includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals in upstate New York.

"New York's Canal system is an engineering marvel of epic proportions and its construction demonstrated the sort of vision, determination and boldness that define us as New Yorkers," Governor Cuomo said. "Nearly two centuries after its completion, the Canal system continues to be an important tourist destination, while also playing a vital role supporting industries throughout Upstate New York."

The Erie Canal represents one of the most significant engineering achievements in New York’s history and along with its adjoining canals, it continues to play a pivotal role in supporting the state’s economy. According to a 2014 report, the system generates nearly $380 million in tourism spending annually across upstate New York, and more than $6.2 billion from non-tourism uses such as agricultural irrigation, commercial shipping, and renewable power generated at 27 hydroelectric facilities located along the Canal. The report also determined that the Canals support 26,472 jobs, $1.6 billion in personal income, and $702 million in tax revenue, both directly and indirectly.

Canal Corp. Director Brian U. Stratton discusses the upcoming boating -- and
biking -- seasons along the Erie Canal. 
New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton said, "Each year, our iconic Canal system draws scores of visitors from all over the world to travel along America's most storied manmade waterway and to enjoy walking, biking, and fishing along its banks. It is a historical marvel that has consistently fueled New York's economy through recreation and tourism, and I look forward to seeing what this year's Canal navigation season adds to that already-rich history."

The Canal navigation season is scheduled to end on Nov. 20, weather permitting.

For those who want to travel along the canal but not necessarily on it, there's a newly constructed section of the Erie Canalway Trail between the city of Lockport and the town of Pendleton. The opening marks the completion of a $5.4 million project to construct four new miles of 10-foot wide asphalt trail between Stevens Street in Lockport and Fisk Road in Pendleton, as well as additional work in the town of Amherst. The 365-mile trail that stretches from Lake Erie to the Hudson River is now more than 75 percent complete.

In addition to the four miles of new trail, a pedestrian bridge was built over Donner Creek in Lockport near Fisk Feigle Road and an on-street path was added from Stevens Street to Erie Canal Locks 34 and 35. Informational kiosks have been installed on the trail to guide visitors, and parking and trail access is now available on State Street.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said Tuesday's cold weather wouldn't deter her from
biking along the new path.
At Tuesday's grand opening and ribbon cutting, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said, "The completion of this part of the Canalway Trail will help these communities thrive. It is imperative that we continue to preserve the land and trails surrounding the Canal so it can be enjoyed by future generations."

The Canalway Trail's popularity among New Yorkers and visitors alike has made it an economic engine for communities throughout upstate New York. Each year, approximately 1.5 million people use the Erie Canalway Trail, resulting in an estimated $253 million in economic activity from visitor spending statewide. The Buffalo-Pendleton segment is the most heavily used part of the Canalway Trail with approximately 350,000 annual users.

State Sen. Rob Ortt said, "Shortly after its completion in the City of Lockport a couple of months ago, I’ve seen dozens of people taking advantage of the Canalway Trail, whether they’re walking or biking. The trail offers scenic views along the Erie Canal, and has the potential to attract more tourists to the area with the help of the Flight of Five locks and the Lockport Cave and Underground Boat Ride virtually down the street. I have no doubt this project will have a positive economic impact that’ll also bring a sense of resurgence to the city."

Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey said the bike path 
makes Lockport more accessible.
Town of Lockport Supervisor Mark Crocker called the project "a great example of State and local government working together to finish a project that will enhance the lives of people for many generations to come." He said he expects people to use the path hundreds of years from now.

Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey said, "The expansion of the Canalway Trail from Lockport to Pendleton is exciting for our residents as well as visitors who come to enjoy the Erie Canal, Bicyclists and runners will have the opportunity to take in the Erie Canal while doing so on a safe and well-maintained trail. We're looking forward to showing off our city and locks to more neighbors and visitors on the trail."

Following the ribbon cutting, Hochul, McCaffrey and others went for a short ride down the path.

A grand opening for the Lockport Locks, including a first-ever Lock Tenders Tribute event will be held on May 20.

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