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Public hearings held on reimagining the Erie Canal

Ellen Abbott
At a recent public meeting in Syracuse, attendees were asked to submit their ideas

New York State is in the midst of reimagining the 200-year old Erie Canal. A series of public engagement sessions is looking for ideas about how to bring the four historic canals into the 21st century.

"We’re really looking at what the canal is, what it has been, but what it could be," said New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton.

Credit New York State Canal Corporation

He said hundreds of people have made suggestions already, ranging from movable ice rinks to canal side arts festivals.

Stratton said likes the idea of a portable ice rink available to communities along the canal.

"Because as cold as winters are here, they are not always reliably cold," he said. "So if you have a portable ice rink to move from a community along the canal, you can guarantee winter festivals and ice skating."

At a public meeting in Syracuse this week, he noted the canal isn’t just being looked at as an economic development or tourism engine.

"But also look at opportunities for irrigation, for invasive species, for flood mitigation, ice jambs, which are problems that are particularly problematic in the central New York and the eastern Mohawk Valley regions.”

Stratton said a task force will make recommendations on the canal’s future to Gov. Andrew Cuomo by the end of the year. New York’s canal system is 524 miles long, and links the Hudson River to the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.