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UB Erie Canal forum to explore how Empire State Trail can boost economy, improve quality of life

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Fri, May 31st 2019 07:00 am

Gathering is fifth SUNY/Erie Canal bicentennial forum

The economic benefits of the Empire State Trail, as well as how it could enhance the quality of life and health of Western New York residents, will be discussed at a University at Buffalo forum on Wednesday, June 5.

The gathering is the fifth State University of New York/Erie Canal Bicentennial Forum, held in conjunction with the New York State Canal Corp. and Department of State. The series began in 2017 to discuss the beneficial links the state Canal System has to centers of New York life and the economy, including the arts, downtown revitalization, and the craft beer industry.

The latest forum, to be held at Hayes Hall on the UB South Campus, will focus on the Empire State Trail, an initiative launched by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to build a 750-mile network of trails. It is set to be the nation’s largest state multi-use trail system, running from New York City to the Canadian border, and on the Erie Canalway Trail from Albany to Buffalo. The trail is expected to be completed in late 2020.

“The Empire State Trail will be a transformational recreation opportunity not just in New York, but for visitors throughout the Northeast and beyond,” said Brian U. Stratton, Canal Corp. director. “It will also be a way for canal communities to become better connected and showcase all they have to offer.”

John Maggiore, the governor’s senior adviser on upstate development, is slated to deliver the keynote address.

“The Empire State Trail will showcase so much of what New York state has to offer,” said Rossana Rossado, New York secretary of state. “Through waterfront and community revitalization, we are proud to assist in this effort, which will serve as a statewide attraction for visitors from within and beyond New York’s borders.”

One panel will focus on the economic benefits of the trail and will include Amherst Supervisor Brian Kulpa, Parks and Trails New York Executive Director Robin Dropkin, Niagara Parks Commission Acting CEO David Adames and Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers.

“Already, there are 1.6 million trips taken annually on the Erie Canalway Trail and we expect that number to grow rapidly when the Empire State Trail is completed,” Beers said. “There are myriad opportunities for the trail system to become a year-round attraction for visitors and residents alike.”

In Western New York, a 2.1-mile section of the Erie Canalway Trail in Pendleton is scheduled for completion in July, which would provide an uninterrupted 135-mile stretch of trail extending from Buffalo to Lyons, Wayne County.

A second panel, to be moderated by Robert Shibley, dean of the UB School of Architecture and Planning, will focus on the trail’s quality of life benefits, including health and wellness. JJ Tighe, director of the Parks and Trails Initiative for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, will be among the speakers. The foundation has donated $100 million to transform LaSalle Park in Buffalo and to connect communities with a regional trail system. It is the largest philanthropic gift in the history of Western New York.

“The 750-mile Empire State Trail incorporates the Heritage Corridor, providing an exciting and, frankly, visionary addition to the quality of life, cultural interpretation and economic development of New York state,” Shibley said.

The forum runs from 9 a.m. to noon on June 5. Admission is free, but registration is required. Go to https://bit.ly/2JAzRan to sign up.

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