The New York State Canal System, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2018, will be in full operation on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“New York’s canal system helped build the Empire State, and it remains a key economic and tourism driver,” Cuomo said. “I encourage New Yorkers and visitors alike to come and experience this great New York resource for themselves.
A portion of the canal between Waterford, on the Erie Canal’s eastern end and Brewerton, Oswego County, opened earlier this week.
State officials noted that this is the 194th year of operation for the Erie Canal, including the original Clinton’s Ditch, the Enlarged and the Barge system that replaced the previous canals.
Besides the Erie, the system includes the Cayuga-Seneca, Champlain and Oswego canals.
For the second straight year, the state Canal Corporation has waived tolls for recreational vessels to encourage more boaters to visit. The canals will remain open to recreational boaters through Oct. 10, said the state.
“This is always a special time of year because we once again get to show off our great New York State canals, which have become an increasingly important economic engine as more tourism and recreational assets become available,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton.
A study commissioned by the Canal Corporation said $400 million in tourism and recreational spending is tied to the canals and Erie Canalway Trail. Additionally, said the state, the Canal System has an estimated $6.3 billion economic impact from non-tourism spending tied to hydropower, irrigation, providing water to golf courses and factory operations as well as commercial traffic.
The state Canal System was first championed at the end of the 19th century by then-Governor Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted to enlarge New York’s canals and make them more competitive with railroads to attract freight shipments. The Erie Canal had first opened in 1825, but it had lost traffic because it was deemed too narrow and shallow to accommodate large shipments.
Instead of relying exclusively on manmade channels, as the first two versions of the canals did, engineers “canalized” large lakes and rivers and installed locks, movable dams and guard gates to regulate water flow and enable safe navigation channels.
The Barge Canal was built starting in 1905 and officially opened in Waterford on May 15, 1918.
The state said that compared to the Panama Canal, which was built in roughly the same time frame, the current system is 10 times longer, has nearly 10 times as many locks, and yet was built for one-third the cost using only state money.
Major events on the Canal System this year include a four-month journey by the Corning Museum of Glass GlassBarge, to mark the 150th anniversary of when the Flint Glass Co. moved its operations from Brooklyn to Corning and shipped its equipment on the Erie Canal. The GlassBarge, which will have a mobile glass-blowing theater with 150 seats, will open to the public in Brooklyn on May 17 and make 28 public stops through September. Local stops include Seneca Falls, Lyons and Palmyra.