ROCHESTER (WXXI) - 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.
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 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.