Towpath and historic villages are a great attraction for cyclists
Published on July 14, 2022 at 10:15 a.m.
Brockport adopts the designation of “Trail Town”
By Jules Hoepting, Guest Contributor
BROCKPORT — If you passed the Erie Canal in Orleans County on Sunday night or Monday morning, you probably noticed an abundance of cyclists zipping through.
From July 10-18, 750 cyclists will pedal from Buffalo to Albany along the historic 360 mile Erie Canalway Trail. Organized by the non-profit organization Parks & Trails New York (PTNY), the 24th annual Erie Canal Cycle brings cycling enthusiasts, volunteers and history buffs from 40 states to local canal cities. The median age of runners is 63, with the oldest being 83 and the youngest 10.
Asked about their experiences at a rest stop in Brockport, tour participants had many compliments about the community – both in the towns they passed through and during the tour itself.
Wisconsin couple Stan and Laurie Frey embark on their second Cycle the Erie Canal tour and bring Laurie’s sister, Linda, on her first tour. The group spoke fondly of going to the canal communities, stopping to eat and enjoying the atmosphere.
“All these little towns [are] welcoming, making all the music and [sending free canal-themed] postcards, free fruit – it’s really delicious,” said Laurie Frey.
His sister, Linda, agreed, saying the local towns “seemed like warm, close communities”, adding “When I think of stopping in small towns, it’s here.”
Linda also praised the ability to “see the depth of the history” of the canal through trail signage and lectures for tour participants. Stan Frey found the Culvert Canal at Ridgeway – the only place you can drive under the Erie Canal – to be very interesting as well.
Volunteer Mark Proia of Pavilion, NY, uses the tour as a way to give back to a cycling community that helps support his more than 7,000 miles of annual cycling. Proia has been a volunteer and regular cyclist with Cycle the Erie Canal since 2007, and his favorite thing is to befriend people from all over the United States. Proia enjoys watching the joy that comes from personal accomplishment.
Proia also appreciates canal towns and the variety of ways in which they welcome cyclists. He said he often came to Brockport and used the Brockport Visitor Center charging station for his hybrid car and then went for a bike ride.
According to Susan Smith, director of the Brockport Visitor Center, the center additionally offers a kayak launch, bike repair station, showers, laundry facilities and camping options. The center is a great example of PTNY’s Erie Canal mission: to connect the Erie Canalway trail to the Erie Canal towns.
In early 2022, the “Victorian Village on the Erie Canal” was selected by PTNY and the New York State Canal Corporation (NYSCC) as the pilot community for the new Empire State Trail Town program, based on its longtime connection to the canal. . and commitment to the trail.
The Erie Canalway Trail is part of the Empire State Trail. Over the past six months, PTNY has worked with village officials and a group of dedicated volunteers to help Brockport attract and take advantage of the growing bicycle tourism market, improve the trail and infrastructure for those who walk and cycle in the village and establish a strong trail identity.
Brockport Mayor Margay Blackman said the village “proudly” identifies itself as an Erie Canal community and is “excited” to be selected as the first city on the Empire State Trail.
“When I moved here in 1977, the [trail] the path was not well maintained… it was a matter of bridging [the canal] for years and years,” Blackman said. “Parks & Trails has made an enormous contribution to bringing recreation and tourism to the canal.”
Another initiative that PTNY and NYSCC have taken to connect communities with the channel is the Bike-Friendly Business certification program, which recognizes and promotes businesses that provide special accommodations for cyclists.
In Orleans County, Certified Bike-Friendly locations include Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Bunkhaus Inn and Hart House Hotel in Medina, Downtown Browsery Inc., Hoag Library, Coffee Joint and Cream ice cream Tinsel in Albion.
For more information on Cycle the Erie Canal and PTNY programs, visit ptny.org/cycle-the-erie-canal. To stay up to date with the tour, follow Parks & Trails New York on Facebook (@parksandtrailsny and @eriecanalwaytrail), Instagram (@parkstrailsny and @eriecanalwaytrail) or Twitter (@PTNY and @cycletheeire).
The tour is in partnership with Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York Power Authority. The Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor is the event’s lead heritage sponsor. Nine regional tourist agencies, including Orleans County Tourism, also sponsor the hike.
Editor’s Note: Albion’s Jules Hoepting is an intern at Parks & Trails New York.