Announcing the Annual Tour the Towpath Erie Canal Bike Ride

Celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial and kick off the World Canal Conference with Tour the Towpath, an event co-sponsored by the Town of DeWitt.  Tour the Towpath is an assisted interactive 36-mile cycling experience along the Old Erie Canal Towpath trail starting in Rome and ending in DeWitt.  Riders will have the choice of either a single-day ride on the 24th of September, or an extended two-day trip from the 23rd to the 24th.

Tour the Towpath Official Bicycle Route

Tour the Towpath Official Bicycle Route

Along the way, riders will have access to a host of amazing historical sites, quaint Old Erie Canal settlements, breathtaking nature parks, and charming local eateries and cafes.  Participants are encouraged to go off-trail and explore what these surrounding communities have to offer.  Along the way, they can collect raffle tickets for the Turn-Off the Trail Challenge.  This gives them the chance to win cool prizes while exploring the historical culture of Erie Canal communities.

Erie Canal Lock 21 in Rome

Erie Canal Lock 21 in Rome

Butternut Creek Aqueduct in DeWitt

Butternut Creek Aqueduct in DeWitt

Freedom of Espresso Cafe in Fayetteville

Freedom of Espresso Cafe in Fayetteville

Clinton Square, City of Syracuse

Clinton Square, City of Syracuse

As a special bonus this year, an extended ride will be offered beyond the trip’s culmination in DeWitt to all interested participants.  Sam Gordon, Director of Planning and Zoning for the Town of DeWitt, will lead a guided tour from DeWitt to reach the kickoff event for the World Canals Conference at the Syracuse Inner Harbor.  Conference events include a live glass blowing demonstration by the Corning Museum of Glass, musical performances, and boat tours of Onondaga Lake, with plenty of refreshments available from an assortment of food trucks. 

Onondaga Lake Inner Harbor

Onondaga Lake Inner Harbor

Glass Barge from the Corning Museum of Glass

Glass Barge from the Corning Museum of Glass

The Tour of the Towpath is a family-friendly event and will have tour guides as well as bicycle mechanics on staff to fully support the ride.

 

Event Recap: DeWitt Hosts "Tuesdays on the Towpath" Event Featuring Elevating Erie Sites

Last week’s “Tuesdays on the Towpath” ride featured a DeWitt route focused on two key Elevating Erie sites: the BRANCH and BOULEVARD. A turnout of over 15 riders and ideal weather conditions (unlike our “Spanning the Gap” –themed ride in June!) made for a great ride with lively, inspired discussion about the past and future of the canal corridor in DeWitt.

Our trip began at the Butternut Creek Trailhead near Wegmans DeWitt}

Our trip began at the Butternut Creek Trailhead near Wegmans DeWitt}

Our tour leader, Chris Manchester, Town of DeWitt Arborist

Our tour leader, Chris Manchester, Town of DeWitt Arborist

We made our way towards the BRANCH site, riding along Towpath road to Widewaters Pond. We discussed how the drainage channel along Towpath Road (literally named for its original use) is an historic remnant of the Erie Canal and part of the original canal route through DeWitt. Widewaters Pond connected this part of the canal to its former route down Erie Boulevard (aka the BOULEVARD site).

Widewaters Pond, Between Marshall's Plaza and Towpath Road

Widewaters Pond, Between Marshall's Plaza and Towpath Road

Today, Widewaters Pond is a remnant of the old Erie Canal. The Elevating Erie competition received many interesting proposals for the BRANCH site, running the gamut from skating rink to inspired restaurant attraction, to urban park and event space, to re-envisioning the pond as a diverse ecological playground! These ideas demonstrate how Widewaters Pond has the potential to be a new focal point of recreation, business, and social interaction for the entire Town.  

BRANCH Site: Eco Edutainment

BRANCH Site: Eco Edutainment

BRANCH Site: Ice Rink Concept

BRANCH Site: Ice Rink Concept

BRANCH Site: Knot Park Concept

BRANCH Site: Knot Park Concept

BRANCH Site: Green E.S.E Connections

BRANCH Site: Green E.S.E Connections

As our survey results revealed, the top idea for the BRANCH site was to see the pond re-envisioned as a park-like setting with sprawling greenways extending out into the surrounding neighborhood.

Winning Concept: Widewaters Eco Edutainment Park:

Winning Concept: Widewaters Eco Edutainment Park:

Continuing on our ride, we doubled back down Widewaters Parkway toward Shoppingtown Mall (another site we’d love to see revamped!), making our way towards the Orville Feeder Canal which parallels Butternut Drive.

Orville Feeder Canal along Butternut Drive

Orville Feeder Canal along Butternut Drive

The Orville Feeder Canal is a critical piece of Erie Canal history. This canal was dug at the same time as the Erie Canal to connect another important piece of man-made infrastructure: Jamesville Reservoir. The reservoir was constructed to assist in the control of water levels and flow for the Central New York section of the Erie Canal; the system functioned by a series of sluice gates implemented along its connective channel, the Orville Feeder Canal. This system helped to maintain canal activity for the entire region! The interconnected system is well aligned to create a greenway network in DeWitt: Jamesville Reservoir feeds Butternut Creek, which feeds the Orville Feeder canal near the new DeWitt Library .

Although our tour was set to conclude on Butternut Drive, the group opted to enjoy a few more leisurely miles along the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. We biked 3.5 miles down the trail before heading back to reach our final destination, Trappers Pizza Pub. The extra miles along the scenic trailway, and of course, pizza, made for a great conclusion to an amazing ride!

Old Erie Canal State Historic Park

Old Erie Canal State Historic Park

The Tuesdays on the Towpath ride series will be going strong through the summer – check out similar events on their website or consider participating in the 36-mile Tour The Towpath ride in September!

Manlius Informed Series Features Elevating Erie

This past spring, Sam Gordon, Director of Planning and Zoning for the Town of DeWitt, was invited by the Manlius Informed Series to speak about Elevating Erie. This program is hosted at the Manlius Library and co-sponsored by the Manlius Senior Centre, and we were so pleased that Sam had the opportunity to share our work with this engaging, well-informed audience! We would like to send a big thank you to both the Manlius Library and the Manlius Senior Centre for their generous invitation and interest in the project, and for creating a video of the presentation for the public to view. Check it out!

We are so thrilled to see the Elevating Erie project featured among their panel of esteemed speakers! Check out the Manlius Library youtube channel for other videos of past events.

Exploring Ideas

Exploring Ideas

This morning we released the results from the public survey that was conducted as part of the Elevating Erie ideas competition. All in all we received over 1,200 completed surveys, with over 3,800 visitors from 38 states and 50 countries around the globe.

Cycling Onondaga Lake Park with Cuse Cycle

We at Elevating Erie love the idea of bringing bike sharing programs to the Syracuse Area as a high quality form of transportation.  More and more people in our community are discovering the joys of experiencing life at the pace of a bicycle, and demand is growing.  The service that Cuse Cycle provides is unique to Onondaga County, and may be the start of a larger system.  Ever since we talked with the owner of Cuse Cycle, David McKie, we have been anxious to try out the Cuse Cycle bike sharing service for ourselves.  One of our own, Jay Lambrix, an intern for the DeWitt Planning & Zoning Department, went out to Onondaga Lake Park to test out the system.  This is his story.

Jay Lambrix

Jay Lambrix, Intern for the Town of DeWitt Planning and Zoning Department 

Jay Lambrix, Intern for the Town of DeWitt Planning and Zoning Department 

First of all, I cannot emphasize enough how easy it was to use the Cuse Cycle mobile app.  Before I set out for Onondaga Lake Park, I simply went to the Payment & Plans option on the app and selected the Basic Rental option which costs $5.00 an hour.  Then I clicked on the Payment icon and entered my debit card information.  Now, I was ready to get started. 

Willow Bay Bike Station

Willow Bay Bike Station

I arrived at the Willow Bay parking lot at 10:30 am.  Once I left my car, I flipped out my phone and brought up the Cuse Cycle App.  I tapped Find & Ride which showed a map of the park area and the available bike sharing stations nearby.  I saw that the Willow Bay Station was a mere 50 feet from where I had parked, right next to where the park trail met the parking lot.  It showed a total of 8 available bikes.

Cuse Cycle Docking Mechansim

Cuse Cycle Docking Mechansim

As soon as I stepped up to the station, I pressed Checkout a Bike and the app brought up a screen with 8 circular icons, each one showing an individual bike number.  I held my finger down on bike number 15.  Right away, you could hear the soft click of an electronic lock.  I leaned down and easily pulled the bike away from its docking station.

Cuse Cycle Bike

Cuse Cycle Bike

The bike itself was an elegant and simple single-speed design with a double-leg kickstand and a front-end basket.  At first the double-leg kickstand threw me off, given that the bike needed to be raised slightly off the ground before it could be extended.  However, this turned out to be an asset.  Not only did the double-legs prevent the bike from tipping over, even while supporting heavy loads in the basket, but it stopped the back wheel from moving forwards or backwards on an inclined surface.  The front-end basket was another pleasant surprise.  It was unlike any mounted basket configuration I had ever seen before.  It had thick metal bars with a solid shallow bed that easily supported heavy loads such as my backpack.  Furthermore, it was mounted to the main frame of the bike instead of the handlebars.  This configuration kept the basket level and steady during turns, thus creating a more balanced platform that distributed weight more evenly over the frame.  One thing to keep in mind; the Cuse Cycle bikes make use of a hybrid coaster-hand brake system.  While the rear wheel brake requires the user to backpedal, the front-end wheel brake operates via a handlebar lever on the left-hand side.

Salt Museum Bike Station

Salt Museum Bike Station

Cuse Cycle Bike Ride Welcome Center.PNG

Onondaga Lake Park Visitor Center

This was my first time visiting Onondaga Lake Park, and I was thrilled to be able to take it all in by bike.  While I am an avid cyclist, it is difficult to reach the lake.  I live on the south side of Syracuse and would have to cut through Downtown first to reach the park. 

It took me a total of 20-25 minutes to bike to the next station located at the southeast corner of the park next to the Salt Museum and the Park Visitor Center.  Docking the bike was easy enough.  All I had to do was orient the bike’s black locking mechanism with the corresponding docking rod.  Once they connected, the lock automatically engaged.  I glanced at the app which showed that the rental clock had stopped.  From there, I ventured out to explore the area on foot, checking out the visitor center, local park area restaurants, as well as the Onondaga Lakefront nearby. 

After about half an hour, I returned to the bike docking station.  Once again, I checked out number 15 and headed back towards Willow Bay.  I could have ended my trip there, but I was having too much fun, so I kept going.  I biked over the Seneca River to the Haley West Shore Trail bike station, and then down along the West Shore Trail.  By the time I finally turned back and returned my bike to the Willow Bay Station, I had logged a total biking time of an hour and a half. 

I walked away from this experience with a newfound appreciation and respect for bike sharing.  While I knew of the rising popularity of bike share programs in cities like Paris and Washington D.C., I had never actually tried one out for myself.  It is exciting to see bike sharing come to Syracuse.  The service was of the highest quality and was a joy to use.  I would like to congratulate Cuse Cycle on a job well done.  I cannot wait to see the service expand to include other areas of Syracuse.  Hopefully, one day soon, Cuse Cycle stations will be commonplace throughout the region, easily accessible for everyone.     

Jay Lambrix is doing a Master's of Professional Studies in Environmental and Community Land Planning at SUNY ESF.  He currently lives in Syracuse.