Looking for ways to capitalize on the interest in the Erie Canal

Jul 14, 2017

The Erie Canal has a very big economic impact on New York State, but more needs to be done to make people aware of its importance and how they can enjoy it.

Credit WXXI photo

That was the gist of an economic forum on the canal held Friday. The meeting at the Strong Museum featured presentations and experts on various aspects of the canal; and one thing they wanted to get across is that while the canal is great for tourism, it has a positive impact on the state’s economy in a number of ways.

That includes farmers who use water from the canal for irrigation, and developers who have built much sought-after housing along the canal.

Brian Stratton is director of the New York State Canal Corporation. He says the canal generates many millions of dollars for the state’s economy.

“Yes, the tourism economic impact is very, very large, $400 million a year spent on tourism along the canal and the canalway trail but the non-tourism economic impact is over $6 billion in wages, taxes, fees, so it is absolutely huge.”

Beth Teall  is chair of Corn Hill Navigation which  runs the Sam Patch boat along the canal as part of their educational mission.

“We have an obligation as citizens of this community to be supporting and improving and using the waterways; so the best way to do that is to get people on the water and seeing what a treasure both the canal and the river are,” Teall told WXXI News.

Greg Marshall is a senior vice president with the tourism group Visit Rochester, and while he says the canal generates a lot of tourism dollars, the state should spend more to market it.

The Sam Patch, waiting for a trip down the Genesee River
Credit Randy Gorbman / WXXI News

“The Erie Canal is an iconic American institution, it is known around the world. What is not known around the world is that is a premier recreation, heritage and cultural attraction that is still available to visitors. We need to do a better job of pushing that out.”

Heidi Macpherson  is president of the College at Brockport. She says since they are the only SUNY school along the canal, they want to highlight that waterway in some of their courses.

“We’re developing an Erie Canal interdisciplinary lab so that our students can think about the history and the arts and the sciences around the canal. We think it’s a great opportunity for the students to have living-learning.”

Macpherson says that the college is also working with Village of Brockport officials to make it easier for students to walk to the canal and find other ways of accessing it.

The forum in Rochester is part of a series of events being held this year to mark the Erie Canal’s 200th anniversary. 

Look for a conversation about the Erie Canal on WXXI-TV's Need to Know program with host Helene Biandudi Hofer on Thursday, 7/20, at 8pm.

Watch Facebook Live video of Beth Teall of Corn Hill Navigation (she spoke to us on the Sam Patch, which took some of the conference attendees on a ride down the Genesee River on Friday)