By Ben Grimaudo
Canalside Chronicles Staff
The Erie Canal holds a special significance to the Brockport community. Brockport Village Mayor Margaret Blackman says that the canal is a reminder of the village’s history.
“It certainly means heritage. We are being reminded of that constantly since last year was the beginning of the bicentennial of the Erie Canal,” Blackman said.
Outside of the historical significance, the canal is also important to the community because it draws in commerce. Andrew Musumeci, who owns the Custom House Bar and Grill which is located on Main Street, says that he put his restaurant at that location because it draws in people.
“I think the canal is almost as important to Brockport as the college. I think it draws a lot of attention. It gives us a scenic area and it is kind of what Brockport is known for.”
“I think the canal is almost as important to Brockport as the college. I think it draws a lot of attention. It gives us a scenic area and it is kind of what Brockport is known for,” Musumeci said.
The tourists who come visit the canal bring commerce to the shops and restaurants on Main Street.
“The Canal Corp. estimates when tourists come into a village say they are coming along the canal path or whatever, that they spend an average of $150 in that community during their stay,” Blackman said.
Despite the canal’s importance to the community there was almost a movement to get rid of the canal.
“If you go back to, I don’t know how far back, but to the 1960s and 1970s there were people who were saying, ‘Just fill it in. Fill in the ditch,’” Blackman said.
That attitude has since changed and right now the Canal Corporation is starting to make improvements to the canal starting with clearing the canal’s embankments. While some value the privacy of trees on the embankment, Blackman says they are a public safety issue.
“Trees do not belong on the canal’s embankment. They really compromise the embankment,” Blackman says.
For years the clear cutting was neglected because the Canal Corporation was under the authority of the New York State Thruway System. Tolls from the thruway supported the canal, but the administration did not prioritize maintaining the canal. Starting in January of 2017, the Canal Corporation came under control of the New York Power Authority. This brought more funding to the canal corporation.
During the summer, the canal is the setting for various festivals and events that go on the canal. One of those is Low Bridge, High Water which runs from Thursday May 10, through Sunday May 12. The festival started in 2013 and it celebrates the filling of the canal and the return of spring. Some of the activities that occur include a beer tasting put on by Stoneyard Brewing Company, a lecture and then events that are centered on kids.
On summer nights you can also find boaters taking a ride along the canal or people going out for a walk to enjoy the scenic view along the historic path.