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NYS State Canal System Celebrates 100 Years with Canal Clean Sweep, Part of Earth Day Observance

John Smith


The 100th year of the New York State Canal System was celebrated over the weekend with at least 100 Earth Day Events.  The “Canal Clean Sweep” had volunteers at sites along the 524 mile canal putting some gloves on and getting to work just ahead of the canal season.  Parks and Trails New York Spokesperson James Meerdink said he appreciates their hard work.  One community in the capital region lead a community effort that went beyond the canal system. 

“Clifton Park, in the capital region - they really use Clean Sweep as day to do a town wide cleanup at a lot of their parks and facilities. They have over 30 events. They have 400 volunteers. It’s not really about the canal and canal trail. The town uses it as a day to encourage volunteers throughout the town,” said Meerdink.

Meerdink explained that as participants clean along the canal, they can find just about anything. This year they made a contest out of it called “Watcha Find?”

Volunteers in Chittanango clean up grounds along the Erie canal for the "Canal Clean Sweep."

“There are just interesting things that people have found. Someone found a homemade Quiji board in Schenectady and then in Pittsford, near Rochester, groups collected hundreds of pounds of trash. They also collected a small statue of the Ganesh, Hindu God,” said Meerdink.

The Old Erie Canal State Park section in Manlius Center was one of the local clean-sweep sites.  At nearby Chittenango Landing, Derrick Pratt said a mix of current and new volunteers came out.

“They’re doing a whole bunch of different tasks,” said Pratt. “Cutting branches off of the trees, picking up debris that’s gotten on the site, sweeping up the insides of our buildings.”

Parks and Trails NY’s Meerdink says the Erie Canal-way trail brings more than $250 million in benefits for communities and the canal’s impact itself brings about tourism revenue and economic development. If you would like to organize a clean-up along the canal, look for the volunteer section at

Hundreds of volunteers cleaned around the Erie Canal across New York to prepare for canal season, which brings a tourism and economic growth to communities.

John Smith has been waking up WAER listeners for a long time as our Local Co-Host of Morning Edition with timely news and information, working alongside student Sportscasters from the Newhouse School.