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Group protests paving of portion of Canalway

Save Our Canal Trail
Part of the Erie Canalway that is being paved.

A paving project underway along a four-and-a-half mile section of the Erie Canalway from DeWitt to Manlius is getting some flak from the public.

While the project was officially announced a week ago, some local residents didn’t realize what was happening until equipment moved in this week to prepare the path for asphalt. And from that sprung a Facebook page called Save Our Canal Trail, a grassroots movement to oppose the paving, spearheaded by Ed Griffin, owner of the running store Fleet Feet. He says a hard asphalt surface is not good for runners or walkers.

Credit Save Our Canal Trail
Save Our Canal Trail

"When you talk about walking running or standing, it’s all about shock absorption. So it’s much more shock that’s being absorbed by the body when you hit. Concrete’s the hardest, asphalt is next. Anything else is better,” said Griffin.

Griffin also cites safety issues for a trail that’s only 10 feet wide, and concerns that the decision was made to pave without any public discussion. More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition calling on the state to stop the paving. Griffin says state officials have promised to meet with residents.

“There have been cases that trails that have been paved without the proper environmental studies and community impact, have been restored back to their original state. Is that going to happen in this case?  I’m not sure.  Is there a compromise coming? We’ll know when we talk to the folks and know what the situation is,” said Griffin.

The state has already paved a portion of the trail.

“You know, one compromise that nobody talked about and would have been interesting in a public forum.  What if they paved half of it and keep half open, soft surface. That might have accommodated both groups, but we’ll never know at this point because the community never had the discussion,” said Griffin.

According to state officials the $325,000 project is being undertaken to create a more durable surface, make it more accessible to the handicapped and usable for wider range of recreational uses, as well as to reduce maintenance costs. They also say that making it more usable for more activities could help boost the areas tourism revenues.