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REDC Funding NYS Canal Corporation, 2018: The Erie Canal Affected the Whole State

Locks, Erie Canal, Lockport, 1908? (

We are in the midst of the bicentennial of the construction of the Erie Canal. It began on July 4, 1817, in Rome and ended eight years later with the Wedding of the Waters on November 4, 1825, in New York harbor. In 2017, the World Canals conference was held in Syracuse in honor of the commencement of the Erie Canal bicentennial. One would think that the eight-year commemoration provides ample time to develop Paths through History along the Erie Canal. There could be multiple paths as people returned each summer for another conference and tour. Forts Plain and Ticonderoga have annual American Revolution conferences with tours. The Erie Canal provides the same opportunity with the advantage that a different location along the Canal could be featured each year so people could experience the entirety of the Canal over the course of the bicentennial. And there would be plenty of chances for teacher programs at a variety of levels as well. Obviously that is not what has been happening.

With this background in mind, let us turn to the REDC grants awarded by the New York State Canal Corporation. Funding totaling $1 million was available:

The Canalway Grants Program is a competitive matching grant program available to eligible municipalities and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations along the New York State Canal System. Funding is for capital projects that enhance economic and community development along the canal corridor and are consistent with the goals of the Regional Economic Development Council Plans.

Since the number of awards is comparatively low, the awards are listed in alphabetical order by county and not by REDC region.

Buffalo Maritime Center
Building Replica of Dewitt Clintons 1825 Erie Canal Packet Boat

This project seeks to create a historically accurate replica of the Seneca Chief, the packet boat that led the flotilla for the 1825 official opening of the Erie Canal. The boat will be built at the Inner Harbor in Buffalo in full public view. The Buffalo Maritime Center will use the project to develop programming with canal heritage partners to identify their Erie Canal history. It will culminate with a reenactment of Governor DeWitt Clinton’s voyage on the Seneca Chief from Buffalo to New York City.

Buffalo Maritime Center
Building Replica of Dewitt Clinton’s 1825 Erie Canal Packet Boat

Buffalo Maritime Center is awarded funding to construct an historically accurate replica of DeWitt
Clinton’s Erie Canal packet boat, which led the flotilla from Buffalo to NYC for the official opening of the Canal in 1825. The boat will be constructed in full public view, year round on Canalside.
New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) Arts and Cultural Impact Programming

I included the NYSCA award since it directly relates to the Canal award. These two awards are directly connected to the Erie Canal bicentennial. The implication is that the New York State Canals Corporation is planning a bicentennial celebration of the opening of the Erie Canal and the Wedding of the Waters in 2025.

Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida
Erie Canalway Heritage Fund Inc
Canalway Water Trail – Directional and Wayfinding Signage

Signage under this project will identify water trail access points, historic sites and canal infrastructure that
can be visited during a water trip and facilities for the entire Canal System. Signs will display a custom logo of the water trail along with directional arrows where necessary. They will complement the release of a new guidebook, a navigational map set and website updates that will identify launch points and trail blazers.


This type of grant is typical of those awarded in this category: maintenance, refurbishing, and signs.

Village of Fairport
Fairport Canal Gateway Project

This project will increase access to canalside attractions in the village of Fairport. On the north bank, new ADA-accessible docks will be installed, along with an accessible kayak launch, regraded boat ramp, observation desk, wayfinding, an information kiosk and new lighting and landscaping. Enhancements along the south bank include a new park that will feature an interpretive heritage trail to celebrate the Erie Canal bicentennial. The trail will connect to existing pathways in Kennelley Park and to downtown neighborhoods via an extended sidewalk network.

Village of Fairport
Fairport Bicentennial Canal Gateway Project

The Village of Fairport will create an ADA accessible formalized waterfront park which celebrates the Erie Canal’s and Village’s history and improves water access for all users. The project will enhance the existing docks, kayak launch, and boat ramp along the north bank of the Erie Canal, add comfort amenities and signage, and will improve the safety of Erie Canal Trail bicyclist along Liftbridge Lane West.
OPRHP PKS D $300,000

Village of Fairport
Village of Fairport Local Waterfront Revitalization Program

The Village of Fairport will work with residents, businesses and other public and private stakeholders to prepare a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) for its Erie Canal waterfront. The LWRP’s vision, policies, and project recommendations will promote business development, enhance public access and recreational facilities, protect water quality, encourage development of underutilized waterfront lands, promote walkability and enhance quality of life.
DOS Local Waterfront Program (LWRP) $75,000

This enterprising municipality was able to parley three funding sources on related projects with two different names.

Montgomery County Business Development Center
Chalmers Mill Riverfront Civic Space

This project, a key component of a $30 million brownfield revitalization development, will build an elevated pedestrian boardwalk and community space adjacent to the Erie Canal in Amsterdam. It will connect the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook to the downtown business district and Amsterdam’s historic South Side neighborhood. The boardwalk will reorient residents and visitors to the impact the Erie Canal had on the region and highlight the Mohawk River as a beautiful, natural amenity.

Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation
Lock Tender Tribute

The project seeks to honor an iconic 19th-century photograph of lock tenders on the steps of the old
Flight of Five locks in Lockport, by creating 14 lifesized bronze sculptures of those same lock tenders. They will be placed on the steps of the Flight of Five, which is undergoing restoration and rehabilitation efforts in the city.

When I used that photograph in a post, several people responded requesting information about it. The restoration and rehabilitation are not part of an REDC award in 2018 or 2017. In 2014, which is as far back as I went in my research there was a grant related to this effort.

City of Lockport
Flight of Five Restoration

The Restoration of the Flight of Five, the historic Erie Canal locks built in the mid-1800s in Lockport, is the centerpiece of a comprehensive economic development and downtown revitalization strategy called the Locks District Redevelopment Plan. The completion of the Restoration of the Flight of Five is expected to annually draw 230,000 visitors and generate $17 million in spending.
ESD Grants $700,000

This award was part of a $150 million pool at the disposal of Empire State Development(ESD):

ESD has several grant programs that together make available $150 million of capital grant funding for the Regional Economic Development Council Initiative. Capital grant funding is available for capital-based economic development projects intended to create or retain jobs; prevent, reduce or eliminate unemployment and underemployment; and/or increase business or economic activity in a community or Region.

In 2016 I found two related awards for the Erie Canal Museum located at the Flight of Five Locks.

Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation
Lock Tender Tribute

Lock Tender Tribute involves the creation of state-of-the-art exhibits at the Erie Canal Museum at the base of Lockport’s Erie Canal locks to better interpret the cultural and historic resources in downtown Lockport.
Arts, Culture, Heritage New Initiatives – Implementation (CHPG I) $75,000

Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation
Lock Tender Tribute

This grant will fund updates and improvements to the Erie Canal Museum, located at the base of the Flight of Five locks.

Clearly Lockport and the Lockport Locks Heritage District Corporation are working hard to maximize funding in the REDC process, have a long-term program, and have been receiving support from their REDC region on behalf of history or cultural heritage tourism. I wonder how many other municipalities are as well organized and successful.

City of Fulton
Fulton Canal Corridor Multi-Use Trail

This project will help construct two multi-use trails along the Oswego Canal, the Pathfinder Canal
Towpath Trail and the Canalview Bridge Walk Trail. It will build upon work already completed in Fulton, such as the Indian Point Landing gazebo as well as the downtown Canal Landing marina, gazebo and park.

City of Ithaca
Ithaca Waterfront Access

The City of Ithaca will partner with a private developer, City Harbor LLC, to improve the Cayuga Lake waterfront. The project will include housing, a restaurant on the point across Cascadilla Creek, seawall construction and new boat slips. Ithaca will also develop a public promenade, a connector path to the Ithaca Waterfront Trail and electric car charging.

Village of Newark
Village Trail Connector

The village of Newark will improve about 1.6 miles of Erie Canalway Trail that is currently too narrow, unpaved, lacks wayfinding signage and is susceptible to erosion. The trail will be widened to meet national design standards and be outfitted with lighting between the Edgett Road Bridge to the Port of Newark and downtown business district. Safety barriers will be installed along with new benches and bike racks. Measures will also be taken for slope and erosion control protection.

In 2017, the Erie Canal was all the rage. I LOVENY was out in force promoting the World Canals Conference. The New York State Canal Corporation staff were present at Tourism Advocacy Day. Now in 2018, it is as if the Erie Canal vanished. No award by I LOVENY for 2018 even mentions the word “canal.” It’s as if the Erie Canal is Brigadoon and will not reappear until 2025…and then will disappear once again for a century. It is unfortunate the pride in Canal is not ongoing.

Show Me the Money: I LoveNY Funding

History Community to Albany

As part of the REDC funding, I LoveNY has the opportunity to award $13.5 million to applicants.  The description in the REDC awards booklet is:

Market New York is a grant program established to strengthen tourism and attract visitors to New York State by promoting destinations, attractions and special events. Funding is available for tourism marketing initiatives, capital/construction projects and the recruitment and/or execution of meetings, conferences, conventions, festivals, athletic competitions and consumer and industry trade shows.

 The awards enable the history community to see exactly where I LoveNY puts its money. We can “follow the money” and to determine what it actually does.  What the awards booklet does not show are the failed applications. It also does not list the applications never made because no one in the history community ever made them.

In this post and in subsequent posts, I will review the awards granted. I will start with I LoveNY since it should be the most important one for cultural heritage tourism. Future posts will examine other areas within the New York State bureaucracy to get a better state-wide view of what is being done. Because of the number of awards, even within I Love NY it will be necessary to complete multiple posts to see the full picture.

The awards are granted by region. For REDC purposes there are 10. Within each region, the awards are listed by county. Since regional identity is an important component in cultural heritage tourism, especially Paths through History, the regional structure will be followed in alphabetical order divided by county also in alphabetical order. Each listing will include the applicant, the project title, the description, and the amount awarded. For certain items, I may add some personal observations and comments in italics.


The Capital Region was awarded $83.1 million for 116 projects.


Albany Symphony Orchestra, Inc.
Water Music 2017
The Albany Symphony will use the funds to assist in development and promotion of the celebration of the July 4, 2017 Erie Canal Bicentennial with Water Music NY, a one-of-a-kind journey from Buffalo to Albany. Symphony musicians will travel the Canal by barge for 8 days, partnering with canal communities to create and perform new works by gifted NY composers.
Amount: $296,055

Erie Canalway Heritage Fund, Inc.
Erie Canal Water Trail
Funds will be used to support a project that will extend current water trail planning to the remainder of the Erie Canal system and to develop and produce a printed Water Trail Guide and Navigational Map Set, along with a mobile responsive website that will allow users to build travel itineraries that facilitate short day trips or more involved multi-day trips.
Amount: $182,936

Although this award is for a water-based trail, there are Path through History opportunities here. The Erie Canal itself is a heritage object about to start a bicentennial period from the beginning of its construction to its completion in 2025. The grant uses the terms “itineraries” and “multi-day trips.” As people well know on their own or from reading my posts there are no itineraries or multi-day paths on the path weekend over Father’s Day in June. This project has the potential to address the great failure of the Path project if it includes a history component. Where are the Erie Canal Paths through History?

Greenway Heritage Conservancy HRV, Inc.
Hudson River Sojourn
Grant funds will be used to develop and promote a new event, the Hudson River Sojourn, a multi-day kayaking trip between Albany and Manhattan for kayakers of varied abilities.
Amount: $100,000

Technically the Greenway serves the Hudson Valley region. Since its headquarters is in Albany County, it is listed here. Here again the term “multi-day” is used. The likelihood is that these water-projects will be more recreational oriented than cultural heritage tourism and the land component will be minimal. Of course, these two projects highlight the potential for cruise ships eventually operating multi-day trips with land stops on the Hudson just as is done in rivers throughout the country, islands in the Caribbean, and on the Hudson River itself two centuries ago.

The name most frequently associated the Greenway Heritage is Mark Castiglione, the one-time face of the Path through History project to the history community. He has moved on to become Executive Director of the Capital District Regional Planning Commission in Albany as of December. Mark was (and presumably still is) a good guy who knew the truth of the situation and faced severe staff cutbacks. Unfortunately his successor has chosen not to receive my posts so I now have lost contact with the Greenway.

Columbia – no awards in this category


Greene County
Greene County Mountain Bike Ride Center
Funds will be used to support the promotion of a Ride Center campaign, a first step to shift marketing efforts to a target segment of mountain biking day-trippers and overnight guests from the NYC metro and surrounding areas, as well as outside New York State.

The sequence of the presentation was not rigged by me but follows the alphabetical order for the region. Here again there is mention of overnight trips and here again it is recreational based. Perhaps as the review continues there actually be funding for a history-based multi-day trip with an itinerary.

Thomas Cole Historic House
Marketing New Cole Site Permanent Interpretive Exhibition
Grant funds will be used to assist in the development of interactive technology to infuse the historic rooms of Thomas Cole’s home tourism destination with spectacular audiovisual effects, and will tell one of American history’s greatest stories using methods designed for the next generation of visitors.
Amount: $165,000

At last we have an actual historic site. As such, it suffers from many of the problems common to historic sites. It was built as a house and not as a museum for tourists. At the Teaching Hudson Valley conference last July, we were informed of the plans for building a visitor center. The construction of one would be a great leap forward. I have been to the site on my own and with teachers including from out-of-state on a Teaching America program meaning people who stay in motels and generate revenue. Where is the funding for a Hudson River Art Path through History?


Brown’s Brewing Company
Brown’s Brewery Sustainable Development
Funds will be used to support a portion of the costs of constructing a new addition on the west side of the building to house an elevator shaft and elevator in order to create universal access to the basement, ground floor, and upper two floors.
Amount: $107,450

Greenway Heritage Conservancy HRV, Inc.
Hudson River Train Mobile Tour App
Grant funds will be used to create a hybrid app that will provide passengers on Amtrak and Metro-North’s Hudson River line trains a guided tour of the region’s history, scenery and natural resources right outside their window.
Amount: $100,000

From the description of the app, it sounds as if people will have the opportunity to use their cell phones but not to actually stop at the various Amtrak and Metro-North train stations the way cruise ships dock and provide land tours. For example, when I take the train from Croton-Harmon to Albany, now I would have an app to describe Bannerman’s Castle in the Hudson River without stopping in Beacon. The National Park Service offers a tour of the Roosevelt sites tied into the Amtrak stop at Poughkeepsie but there is no indication here that people are expected to stop at Hudson, for example, and visit the Thomas Cole Historic House, Olana State Historic Site, or Hudson, the new Brooklyn, as part of a more extended. One wonders why funding for an app is so easy while funding for actual tours where people would spend money is non-existent.

Tri-City ValleyCats
Capital Region All-Star Event
The Tri-City Valley Cats will use the grant funds to host the NY-Penn League All-Star Baseball Game, a 2-day premier sporting event that will attract visitors both statewide and nationally.
Amount: $135,000

Saratoga – no awards in this category

Schenectady – no awards in this category

Warren – no awards in this category


Hubbard Hall Projects, Inc.
Marketing Washington County Arts
Grant funds will be used to create Phase II of the Washington County Arts Marketing Campaign and Festival in 2017, in order to raise the profile of the Washington County region and attract new visitors and residents alike, aimed at drawing those interested in the higher quality of life available in Washington County.
Amount: $15,000


Central New York was awarded $62.2 million for 77 projects. We kid a lot about Upstate and Downstate, but does anyone outside a state bureaucracy even know where central New York is? Has anyone ever developed a marketing strategy based on the name “Central New York”? Someone worked very hard to separate the counties in central New York from the Finger Lakes or Mohawk Valley regions.

Cayuga – no awards in this category


Cortland Downtown Partnership SKI 2 Cortland
SKI 2 Cortland will continue to enhance and promote the advancement of the snowsport industry of the Central New York region by expanding its current program to bolster regional economic impact by encouraging the frequency and duration of destination stays and will also support a new special multi-day event to further increase visitation.
Amount: $60,000

Madison – no awards in this category


County of Onondaga
Oncenter Convention Center Enhancements
Funds will be used to assist with upgrades and enhancements to the Nicholas J. Pirro Convention Center. This is one of the larger individual awards.
Amount: $975,000

New York State Rhythm and Blues Festival, Inc.
25th New York State Blues Festival
Funds will be used to expand the current marketing plan and building the temporary infrastructure for the NYS Blues Festival, attracting visitors from across the United States and from around the globe.
Amount: $30,000

Oswego – no awards in this category

The review will continue with the Finger Lakes Region in a subsequent post. My initial impressions are recreation comes first, technology is a magic buzzword, and standalone projects for an individual site or community are what is favored. Let’s see if these observations hold up in the remaining I LoveNY awards.