The New York State Canal System, which includes the Erie Canalway, received the honorary designation Wednesday as a National Historic Landmark. The distinction is expected to build upon its successes for the tourism industry in Upstate New York. At the announcement in Syracuse, State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton explains how the more prominent status could also lead to new investments.
“It opens up the opportunities for historic grants and other funding," Stratton said. "It also creates an opportunity that people from all over the world will want to come here and see this great canal.”
Stratton says much of the original electronics and mechanics installed between 1905 and 1916 at the locks of the canal system remain intact. Employees who maintain the canal were honored for their work at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. Stratton says when you factor in the boats navigating on the canal and the Canalway Trail that spans 80 percent of the state, the canal generates $400 million a year in revenue.
"That includes boating, kayaking, powerboats, but it's also cyclists, runners, even snowmobiles in some parts of the state."
The canal is also credited with benefiting more than 200 communities across Upstate New York with waterways that cover 524 miles. Stratton says Governor Cuomo has proposed in his State Budget to close a 65 mile gap of the Erie the Canalway Trailn including nine miles in the City of Syracuse.
"And then he wants to connect the Erie Canalway trail to the Hudson Greenway to make the large Empire State Trail," Stratton said. "When completed in 2020, it will be the largest state-owned public use trail in the United States.”
Stratton adds the State Canal System is a direct descendent of Clinton’s Ditch known as ‘the first Erie Canal’ 200 years ago. A celebration will be held this year to mark its bicentennial. The State Canal System consists of four main waterways, the Erie, the Champlain, the Oswego and the Cayuga-Seneca Canals. As of January 1st, the Canal System has a new partner, the New York Power Authority. More information is available on their website at canals.ny.gov.