Federal designation preserves canal history and plans for future
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins announced the House of Representatives approved reauthorization of the Erie Canal as a National Heritage Corridor. Through this legislation, the federal designation, which was set to expire in 2015, will be renewed through 2021. The bill is expected to be before the Senate next week.
"This is an important step for communities on the Canalway Corridor," Gillibrand said. "New York state is blessed with vast natural beauty, and the Erie Canal Corridor is one of America's richest treasures. By reauthorizing the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, we continue to provide a framework for the region's tourist attractions to promote themselves, emphasize their historical significance, and unleash their enormous potential."
"By embracing our unique history, including our proximity to the Erie Canal, Western New York is building our future," Higgins said. "Continuation of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor provides a federal commitment to promoting and expanding the rich natural and cultural features along the Erie Canal across the state, and supports ongoing momentum along Western New York's waterfront."
The measure, included in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015, was introduced by Gillibrand, Higgins and Congressman Chris Gibson earlier this year as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Act (HR 4641).
The Erie Canal was designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 2000. Under this designation, a federally appointed canalway commission, in conjunction with the National Park Service and U.S. Department of Interior, is tasked with promoting the corridor as a tourism destination and ensuring the historical and natural features of the canal and its communities are preserved.
First opened 189 years ago, the Erie Canal was quickly recognized as a defining public works and civil engineering achievement. By connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, the canal facilitated the movement of people and goods in a way that had previously been restricted by the difficult conditions of overland routes.
Today, the Erie Canal continues its role as an economic driver supporting the transport of close to 100,000 tons of cargo and serving as one of New York's largest tourism magnets providing recreational opportunities, events and telling the story of the canal's role in the Underground Railroad.
The corridor covers 4,834 square miles across 23 counties, extending from Tonawanda to Whitehall at the bottom of Lake Champlain and includes Buffalo, Rochester and the Finger Lakes, Oswego, Syracuse, Albany, Saratoga National Historic Park and Glens Falls. For more information about what there is to see and do along the Erie Canal, visit: www.eriecanalway.org.