Two Thousand Seventeen is an enormously important year in the history of inland navigation here in the Empire State, as we celebrate the start of construction of the original Erie Canal. At 9 a.m. on July 4th, 1817, New York’s 6th Governor, DeWitt Clinton, turned the first shovel of earth on land that is now Worthington Industries on Henry Street in Rome. The original “Clinton’s Ditch” -- a four foot deep, 20 foot wide, 364 mile-long artificial waterway between Albany and Buffalo -- was completed in 1825.
Many commemorative events took place along the waterway in 2017 (the World’s Canal Conference is September24-28 in Syracuse). But a shortened canal season brought criticism from boaters and marinas, particularly in Central New York.
A headline in the Albany Times Union dubbed it “Canals’ bicentennial bummer.” While the Canal Corporation suspended tolls for boaters in 2017, it also shortened the lock’s operational season (from May 19 to October 11). Historically the waterway is operated from May 1st to November 15th -- a reduction to a 145 day season from 200 days.
The article called it a contradictory message that “has scrambled travel plans for boaters, cut business for boat clubs and marinas, forced fishing tournaments to cancel, and put a dent in Upstate tourism by out-of-towners and Canadians...”
The Canal Corporation, which became a subsidiary of the New York Power Authority in 2016 after 24 years under administration of the State Thruway Authority, is a major resource for boaters across Upstate New York. Contact them at www.canals.ny.gov