by: Christopher Lewis
BROCKPORT, N.Y. – People who live along the Erie Canal understand its history, its value and its beauty. Newcomers and tourists are just beginning to understand its importance to the region. The canal and the canal path is a source of recreation.
While many people enjoy walking, running, or biking along the canal, thanks to a new initiative, they can soon add rowing to that list. Rowing is the the brainchild of Brockport Mayor Margaret Blackman.
“If I can get the boathouse built then it would allow the canal to add rowing as another form of recreation,” says Blackman.
Blackman’s proposed boathouse wasn’t the first thing on her mind. The first thing she needed to consider was the reimagining of the canal project established by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
schematic of the Pedestrian Bridge Brockport N.Y. March. 03, 2023 (Drawn by Meghan Finnerty)
“There were several reimaging of the canal projects, and Brockport was chosen as the main town to focus on… the idea was to connect new infostructure with the old infostructure,” says Blackman.
Before the idea of the boathouse was a central focus for Blackman, she wanted to make sure that the pedestrian bridge was built. This bridge will span a 2000-meter stretch from the north to the south side of the Erie Canal and make it easier for persons with disabilities.
Area where the Pedestrian Bridge will be built Brockport N.Y. Oct. 28, 2023 (Photo Credit Christopher Lewis)
“That stretch of the canal would be a perfect location for rowing regattas,” says Blackman.
Blackman says that the reason she even considered putting a boathouse on the canal was the view onlookers would get when watching the races.
Blackman faced a lot of backlash from the community when bringing up the idea back in 2015.
“The concern from the community was always oh rowing? Isn’t that an elite sport only meant for the wealthy on the eastside? Not for Brockport… the other complaint mainly came from the local government,” says Blackman.
The complaints from both sides were one and the same; it all came down to money.
“Heard them,” Mayor Blackman says as she goes out of her way contacting different groups and organizations to gage the interest of the sport and the possibility of raising money to bring rowing to the Erie Canal.
Blackman has since been able to get a 75,000 dollar grant from the state and many of the local rowing clubs and teams have been helping out in any way possible.
“We have connections with rowing clubs in Rochester and they have been helpful in the fact that were able to donate equipment such as an eight shell along with Pittsford rowing donating us oars and a couple of four shells along with equipment for coxswains,” says Blackman.
Blackman holds SUNY Brockport’s campus in high regard as they are the ones that offered their property as the place to put the boathouse.
Where the boathouse will be built Brockport N.Y. Oct. 28, 2023 (Photo Credit Christopher Lewis)
“We have the donated land from the University, so we are just waiting for the Canal Corporation to approve of a grant to officially start building the boathouse,” says Blackman.
The last thing Blackman is worried about is the lack of interest in the sport itself.
Donovan Jones, a sophomore at the College at SUNY Brockport puts these worries to rest.
“I never did a sport in high school, but I feel like if we had more than just the basic sports on campus more people like myself would consider joining a team,” says Jones.
Jones isn’t the only student that likes the idea of bringing a club rowing team to SUNY Brockport. Sophomore student Gavan Smith attends SUNY Oswego and rows for the team there.
“If other schools are able to row on the Erie Canal, I would love to see Brockport join them… it all adds more competition; something I am a big fan of,” says Smith.
The canal side project is flowing smoothly. It is only a matter of time before Brockport shells are racing on the canal.