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Recreational boating on canal system surges.

Byline: Velvet Spicer

Recreational boating traffic on New York's canal system increased more than 3 percent this year, as officials celebrated 100 years of canals in the Empire State.

Marking the waterway's centennial, state officials waived tolls on the canal system for the second consecutive year. Motorized pleasure boats, the most common vessels on the canals, were recorded traveling through canal system locks and lift bridges nearly 71,500 times during the 2018 navigation season. The season ran from May 15 through Oct. 10 this year.

The 2017 season saw nearly 69,000 lock pass-throughs. Since 2016, lockings were up 9 percent.

"We are thrilled that more people are experiencing New York's canals and all they have to offer," Brian Stratton, New York State Canal Corp. director, said in a recent statement. "With 524 miles of waterways to explore, our canal system provides unparalleled recreational opportunities and is becoming a magnet for tourism."

The figures account for each time a boat goes through a lock or under a lift bridge, not the actual number of boats. Additionally, the numbers do not include boaters who only travel locally and do not go through a lock, which state officials say account for a large percentage of boating traffic.

On April 15, 1817, the state Legislature approved construction of the Erie Canal. The bill authorized $7 million for construction of the waterway, which was to be 40 feet wide and four feet deep.

The first shovels hit the dirt in Rome, Oneida County, on July 4, 1817. Dubbed "Clinton's Folly" and "Clinton's Big Ditch"after New York State Gov. DeWitt Clinton, who was one of just a handful of people who thought the canal was a good ideathe Erie Canal was built mostly by immigrants and opened eight years after construction began.

New York's canal system includes the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca canals. The canals span 524 miles, connecting the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, the Finger Lakes and Lake Champlain. The waterways form the backbone of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and connect more than 230 unique and historic communities.

"There is no better way to spend free time than boating in Upstate New York, and some of the best boating is on the historic New York State Canal System," Empire State Marine Trades Association President Gabe Capobianchi said. "It's great to see recreational use of the system on the rise and it's an indication that more people are discovering the joys of boating and the wonderful resource that the canal system is to New York State."

A decision on tolls for the 2019 canal seasonwhich in the past have run from $25 to $100 for a season passwill be made by the end of the year, officials said.

vspicer@bridgetowermedia.com / 585-653-4021

Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

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Author:Spicer, Velvet
Publication:Rochester Business Journal
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Oct 29, 2018
Words:479
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