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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!