With a $300M proposal, the Erie Canal could become a reinvented upstate attraction

January 6, 2020

Renderings courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office

This is what a renewed Erie Canal could look like in the years to come. Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed a $300 million proposal on Monday to revamp the 19th-century waterway that was started by Gov. DeWitt Clinton in 1817. The multi-phase plan originates in research conducted by the “Reimagine the Canals” task force assembled by Cuomo last May. The first phase will begin later this year and comprises two parts: a $100 million economic development fund to invest in communities along the canal and $65 million toward preventing ice jams and flooding in the Schenectady area. The remaining $135 million will be allocated based on recommendations made in the task force’s report.

“When the Erie Canal was created in the 19th century it set the state and the nation on a path to prosperity, and this year we will repurpose the canal to fit our state’s 21st century needs,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail, grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve resilience of today’s Canal communities and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”

The first phase will fund projects that reuse canal infrastructure to develop “unique canalside attractions and activities.” These will tie in with Cuomo’s Empire State Trail, a continuous 750-mile trail network expected to be completed later this year. A recent press release states that $25 million “will be allocated immediately to a set of initial projects”: the “Brockport Loop” that will connect SUNY College at Brockport to the canal; hydro-powered light installations in elements of the canal’s infrastructure to celebrate “its history as an engineering marvel”; creating a whitewater course adjacent to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge; and establishing a “canalside pocket neighborhood” at a former industrial property in Canastota.

“As an upstate New Yorker who lives near the Erie Canal and is a frequent visitor to canal communities, I know how this plan to reimagine the canal can unlock even more potential to make it a major tourism magnet,” Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said. “The canals have played a crucial role in New York’s history and growth, and with the implementation of these new exciting projects, the canals will remain a vital force and make a positive contribution to the economic well-being and quality of life in the 225 communities they travel through.”

Additional findings from the task force include solutions for strengthening storm resiliency along the waterway, improving irrigation for farmlands, expanding fishing opportunities in Western New York and restoring wetlands in Central New York.


Renderings courtesy of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office

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