Gov. George Pataki in late June announced a bold, new plan to create an "Erie Canal Greenway" that would herald a historic period in the canal’s future development. While it’s an ambitious plan, the Erie Canal Greenway would be a steppingstone on the path to creating an "Empire State Greenway."
A greenway typically includes a comprehensive plan to preserve the scenic, natural, historic and cultural aspects of designated lands while encouraging safe and responsible economic development through use of recreational resources and boosting commercial capabilities.
An Empire State Greenway, one of the governor’s many initiatives to improve our Empire State, calls for a greenway to stretch throughout New York’s historic canal system via three corridors: the Erie Canal Greenway, Niagara Greenway and Hudson Valley Greenway. When realized, the Empire State Greenway would be one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
Greenway designations incorporate more regional approaches to land-use planning, tourism, recreational trail development and other initiatives. The idea behind establishing greenways is to have the state partner with and assist communities in local planning initiatives that balance a region’s unique economic and environmental resources.
For our Central New York and Finger Lakes region, we can expect to see major improvements along the old Erie Canal, with an emphasis on using the historically rich canalway as an economic development agent and a major tourist attraction. We have already realized this kind of success in Seneca Falls, where the old Erie Canal has become a vibrant part of the renaissance of the community. In Montezuma, plans are being discussed to preserve a historic treasured piece of the old canal along the Seneca River.
I urge everyone to review details of the planned Erie Canal Greenway, especially because it would have such a significant impact on our region, and feel free to comment on the proposal. The entire project falls under the scope of the Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of the state Thruway Authority, which is conducting an outreach campaign to gauge the public’s interest and participation in establishment of the greenway. It’s part of the plan that provides New Yorkers with a unique opportunity to shape the project’s future and reality.
New York’s canal system is a very real, working part of our tourism and economic development industries, and it’s a major part of our state’s beauty and history. I would encourage you to participate in shaping the remembrance of our history while planning the success for our future and this remarkable treasure.